The Mountain of Judah
77. The (church) of Saint Philip, where
they say that the eunuch Candaces was baptized
The spring of 'Ain Dhirwe has been associated since the fourth century with the baptism of the eunuch administered by Philip the Deacon. Since it lies along the principal Jerusalem-Hebron road, it was easy to visit and thus to hand down the memory recorded by Luke (Acts 8, 26-40). The first to mention the fountain and its attached remembrance is the Anonymous of Bordeaux in 333 (CCSL 175, p. 20). The first source to cite a sacred commemorative building is the Itinerary of Willibald (724-728) where it is written: "They came to the place where Philip baptized the eunuch. There is a little church in a large valley located between Bethlehem and Gaza"; it is "near Betzuri" (Tobler, Descriptiones, pp. 35 & 68). However the church had been in existence for a long time because it appears near Philip's spring on the Madaba Map.
When the pilgrims' route changed, so did the identification of Philip's spring. Thus, for example, in 1483, Paul Walther passed through 'Ain Hanniya where he commemorated the deacon Philip (Itinerarium, p. 135). The identification, then, depended often on the road taken by pilgrims.
In 1670, as Fr. Liévin notes (II, p.96), the church of 'Ain Dirwe still existed; but, according to Father Gonzales, quoted by Fr. Liévin, the south nave was utilized as a mosque. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Father Bassi (Pellegrinaggio II, p. 274) wrote: "To the left we brushed past the ruins of an ancient church, in which are still distinguishable three entrances in the façade, three vaulted naves, and three apses which formed the backside of the naves. The falling walls are made up of enormous stones, among which can be seen the three lintels of the doors. Some Jewish tombs are a short distance away."
There is certainly a marked difference between this description and the one in Willibald's itinerary. Was the church rebuilt in the medieval period? No source now known can confirm this deduction. The Flagellation Museum has preserved for many years some mosaic tesserae in white, red, and dark blue recovered at 'Ain Dhirwe (Bagatti, Il Museo della Flagellazione , p. 47, no. 53); they confirm the dating of the church's construction during the Byzantine period. This leads us to suppose the presence of Christians in the neighborhood; for example, at nearby Kh.Burj es-Sur which preserbes the name of ancient Beth Zur. There a medieval tower still remains which could have stood in relation to a church. he authors of the Survey (SWP III, p. 374) produced a drawing of the buildings showing a slightly irregular chapel. Father Mader (p. 11) sketched a new the plan, trying to connect the small edifice to the north with a section of wall that stood to the south. Most lines of the drawing, however, are based on reconstruction using as starting point church architecture and the descriptions of pilgrims; but in fact, almost everything is destroyed. The room where the water gushes out has seen some retouching in recent times.
In a visit made to the place on June 26, 1980 we saw that a building was going up east of the fountain and the little mosque. Foundation trenches had been dug and the pylons to support the yet-unbuilt first floor have already been sunk. Digging to the north, near the road, has uncovered the foundations of the wall enclosing the courtyard of the mosque, revealing that it had been erected on earthfill. Eastward, where a church was presumed to have stood, the digging reached the depth of almost two meters below the floor of the house which, according to Mader, was the south nave of the church. This cannot be, since this too had been built on an earthfill. Only to the east does one see some large stones. A few similar stones were reused in a reinforcement wall to the south. Precisely in this area, not far from the southeast corner of the mosque, various courses of dressed stones of Byzantine manufacture can be seen. They are not in line with the mosque but turned southeast. For the moment this small section of wall to the south, and a small fragment of Corinthian capital inserted into the eastern wall, are the only remainders of the Byzantine building. Some potsherds we saw on surface also belong to this period.
Bellarmino Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press
Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 67)
According to Acts 8,26-27, St. Philip met the 'man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians' 'toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza'. As the way from Jerusalem to Gaza went southwestwards, the tradition soon splits into two localizations. Some authors looked for the site at 'Ein Hanniye on the Gaza road which passes Bether; even Eusebius lent some colour to this view (On. 52,14) although he finally preferred the version represented on the map, which locates Philip's Fountain at 'Ein edh-Dhirwe on the Hebron road opposite Bethsur. The contrary view is represented by Antoninus (ed. Geyer, p. 180) and the Peregrinatio Paulae X (ed. Tobler, p. 35). The author of the map tried to shorten his text as far as possible and in consequence turned the 'eunuch of Candace the queen' into the 'eunuch Candaces'; the same mistake occurs in various later legends, collected by Jacoby. The unusual legousin 'they say' hints at doubts concerning the authenticity of the site.
Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 118)
The entry pertaining to Beth Zur also shows another difference: near the village, the map pictures a church with a round pool in front, accompanied by the caption: '(Sanctuary) of St. Philip, where they say the eunuch Candaces was baptized'. This formula refers to the story told in Acts 8:27-39 and is apparently derived from Eusebius: 'Here a spring is shown, flowing out of a mountain, in which they say the eunuch of Candaces was baptized by Philip'. Jerome adds the missing word 'queen' (eunuchum Candacis reginae). Avi-Yonah explains the transfer of the name Candace from the queen to the eunuch with the need for abridgment, but this is hardly acceptable. Apparently the artist or his source misunderstood the genitive Kandakes for a nominative accompanying ho eunouchos. This cannot have happened with the text of Acts, which clearly says 'a eunuch of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians', and does not give the name of the place. In this case, the mistake itself seems to point to Eusebius as the (misunderstood) source of the artist or of his source. (See also the complete article)
The ancient roads Jerusalem - Gaza
and the two sites for Philip's Fountain
A second site is associated with the story of the baptism of the Ehiopian eunuch Candaces. It is a place much nearer to Jerusalem and on a different road. See the figure above and the report by B. Bagatti which follows.
Bellarmino Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press
Here too the site was not a village but installations used by the inhabitants of the neighborhood in times past. Water flows down the mountain and emerges from a classical-style niche. It was evidently dedicated to some pagan divinity; later it was dedicated to Philip the Deacon with the associated memory of the baptism of the eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). This is why the Wadi Wureidat, or "Valley of the Roses", was called by the pilgrims Vallis S. Philippi. This is how it is marked, for example, on a map dated 1581 (Bagatti, Il santuario della Visitazione, p. 31).
A three-nave church was built near the fountain in the Byzantine period. The pilgrims saw it in worse and worse condition until it was no longer recognizable. A drawing made by De Bruyn in 1681 shows its pillars still preserved to a notable height. The basilica was located to the north of the fountain. In 1929 a fragment of mosaic was observed and the Department of Antiquities carried out a systematic excavation with the permission of the Greek Patriarch, owner of the place. Baramki gives a report on it (QDAP 3 , pp. 113-117; Fig. 7, 1).
The mosaic floor was much ruined but still showed some bunches of grapes and geometric patterns. Ancient repairs are noticeable, which lead us to believe that the church had continued in use even after the Arab occupation in the seventh century. Two reliquaries with bones inside were found on the site, but unfortunately, as is often the other case, they bear no inscription. Thus we do not know if the title of St. Philip, which came into use in the Middle Ages, existed already in the Byzantine period. This last hypothesis would provide the reason for the erection of a large church n an uninhabited place.
We know that the tradition of the eunuch's baptism by Philip was located at 'Ain Dirwe on the Jerusalem-Hebron road (see below) since the fourth century; but this does not mean that the tradition at 'Ain Hanniya might not go back to the first Christian centuries. A change of the route used by the pilgrims could have simply taken place, bringing about a change in the traditional location of the Font of Philip. .
The valley road is certainly ancient (cf. QDAP 5 , p. 150); it is a shorter route to Gaza. One of the reasons why some prefer this localization to the other - whose tradition is older but also removed from the apostolic period - is that the 'Ain Hanniya road could be called "lonely," that is, less frequented than the other, as is written in Acts 8:26. For this reason Brother Liévin, accustomed as he was to accompany pilgrims on the route Jerusalem-Bethlehem; Bethlehem-'Ain Karim, passing through 'Ain Hanniya, and finally 'Ain Karim-Jerusalem, preferred this second identification (pp. 119-120).
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Father Quaresmi observed in regard to this road that it was the shorter one to Gaza but "it is not taken because it is dangerous" (p. 526).
On the way from Yalo to 'Ain Hanniya we saw seven rock-cut tombs, Roman in appearance and some also with crosses incised on the walls. One tomb, on the escarpment not far from the road, is of the kokhim type; two lie to the north, three to the east, and one to the south, which has a bifurcated cross 29 cm wide; 32 cm high on its facade. Another tomb has a cross (15 x l5 cm) cut on the entrance. Some tombs have been reused as cisterns.
Today, in the place where the water is collected, some arches can be seen in not too clear a position since they are half buried. The conduit is also buried but the water flows and serves the shepherds and farmers of the nearby villages. All around are heaps of coarse debris. Below we could see cultivated fields with very many potsherds and glass fragments. From the Byzantine period we noted jar handles, plate rims, red terra sigillata, and the like. It was obvious that the fountain had been in use for several centuries.
On April 1, 1979 we saw several vans full of Orthodox Jews coming to draw water from the fountain - pure water - despite the poor conditions of the road.
In centuries past the Franciscans had the pilgrims pass through this place and, as usual, they said some prayers with antiphon and oration. These visits are reported, for example, in the Itinerary of Santo Brasca of 1480 (Momigliano Lepschy, Viaggio in Terra Santa, Milan 1966, p. 107).
As Father Quaresmi notes (p. 525), as well as many others in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, the village of Walage, on the opposite side of the valley, used to be called by the name of St. Philip. The Franciscan chronicles of past centuries tell us sometimes of conflicts among the different villages, among them quarrels involving Walage, 'Ain Karem, and Hebron. For example, in 1699 the people of Walage attacked the natives of 'Ain Karem who hid in the friary. Many plants were chopped down on this occasion (Cirelli, Annali di Terra Santa, p. 243). Similar conflicts are recorded also for the village of Beit Jala.
In the nineteenth century the village of Walage, the inhabitants of el-Malha el-Khader etc., used to be visited by the Sisters of St. Vincent for the purpose of assisting the sick (La Terra Santa [Florence] 13 , p. 65).
Map Section 6 Place Sources