A Byzantine-era church dedicated to an anonymous martyr has come to light near Jerusalem after three years of excavations, Israeli researchers say.
The excavations brought to light floors decorated with large mosaics depicting birds, fruits and plants, colorful murals and a strange Greek inscription that has confused researchers.
"We found an inscription in the churchyard dedicated to the memory of a 'glorious martyr,'" said Benjamin Storchan, who led the excavations. "The witness is not named and is still a mystery."
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) dates the church from the 6th century, which is located about 16 kilometers west of Jerusalem, according to Reuters.
An underground crypt, found below the main part of the church, is believed to have housed the martyr's remains. "This is the holiest place in the church," says Storchan, adding that the site was frequented by pilgrims.
Although the witness is unknown, Storchan said the band's luxury could reveal that the person was an important figure. Another inscription indicates that the Byzantine emperor Tiberius II Constantine later helped finance the expansion of the church.
"We know of a few hundred churches in the Holy Land, but this church is far superior to most of them in terms of the state in which it is maintained and the imperial involvement in its financing," Storchan said.