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Lighting in the Church


Natural light penetrated the church through the high clerestory windows and the windows of the facade, but since liturgical rites were also held in the evening, additional lighting was necessary. Many different types of devices were used, some of which were quite elaborate. On the tables stood bronze lampstands, which supported oil lamps. In some cases, the stands were so tall they could be placed directly on the floor. The large number of fragmentary glass oil lamps that have come to light indicates that the main source of light came from bronze “chandeliers,” in which several glass oil lamps were placed. Occasionally, such chandeliers also held glass bowls with incised designs in their centers.

In churches of the western Galilee, long bronze chains were suspended from the ceiling beams, to which crosses, various ornaments, and perhaps even glass oil lamps were attached. Among the ornaments are bronze strips joined together in the shape of the Christogram and surmounted by an arch. This accessory has not been discovered anywhere else.

Glass oil lamps with wick holders suspended by bronze hanging devices
Shlomi and Evron, Western Galilee; Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem
5th to 7th century
Israel Antiquities Authority, 38.2120, 51-959, 78-2560
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 69.26.332
Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem / by Avraham Hay

Bronze chandelier with a cross in it's center designed to hold seven glass oil lamps
Provenance unknown
The Wolf family collection, Jerusalem
Glass cup-shaped oil lamp with a stem
Church at Dor, 6th century
Israel Antiquities Authority, 99-4321
Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem / by Avraham Hay

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