The Holy Church of Saint George in Lydda

Lydda is located on central Israel. The church of Saint George witnessed the peak of Christianity in Lydda. Sources reference the existence of Lydda’s Diocese, the first among twenty-five autonomous Dioceses which belonged to Jerusalem and later on it became an Archdiocese. At present there is an Archbishop of Lydda who lives at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Historically, the construction of the church is attributed to Emperor Justinian. The Christian tradition mentions that Saint George was born in town Diospolis of Palestine, the present Lydda. Saint George is said to have been serving the Roman army in Asia Minor and he martyred for Christ during Diocletian’s persecutions. His relic was transferred to be buried in his hometown Lydda. Lydda was a Christian shrine in the 5th century and a marvellous Basilica hosted the Saint’s tomb. This Christian church was destroyed by the famous Imam al-Hakim in 1010, reconstructed by the Crusaders, demolished in 1191 by Salah ad-Din and rebuilt in 1442. Parts of this 5th century Basilica are preserved to this day in the Lydda Mosque named Jamaa al-Khabir.

The New Testament references the miracle of the healing of the paralyzed Aneas in Lydda by Apostle Peter (Acts 9:32-35). Today’s building of the Church of Saint George and his tomb was built by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Cyril ii, who also contributed to the covering of the floors and the tomb with marble. The church is 20 metres in length and 17 metres wide. It is decorated with Corinthian style panel capitals and the interior decoration has elements from the Byzantine, Crusades’ and later epochs. The church used to be three-aisled. At present there are only the aisles of Saint George and Theotokos’ Entry in the Temple.