Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Thursday 16 September |
Saint of the Day: Sts Cornelius and Cyprian
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Spanish Byzantine monastery unearthed, the first of its kind


Roger Culos | CC BY-SA 3.0

Emperor Justinian.

J-P Mauro - published on 01/25/20

The 6th-century ruin sheds light on the extent of the Byzantine empire.

A team of experts has unearthed the first known example of a Spanish Byzantine monastery on the Iberian Peninsula. The find, which occurred in the area known as Elda, near the city of Alicante, was conducted by a team from the University of Alicante.

Ola Goroveci of the Greek Reporter explains that the research of the site took about 25 years to complete. This was due to difficulties the team had in identifying the architectural remains, as well as some of the artifacts. What finally tipped the team off was an assortment of Greek coins, which were finally determined to have been minted by Emperor Justinian, of the Byzantine empire.

In the 6th century, it was the practice of the Byzantines to maintain a stock of government-minted currency in churches. The coins kept would be for value references and would allow merchants to prove that they were dealing with real currency. The church would guarantee that neither side of a transaction would be cheated. This would also in turn help monitor tax revenues for the government.

Also found at the site was an octagonal base of a marble column, a unique find to this region. Further excavation yielded several small, ceremonial utensils, and also a pyxide, or cylindrical ivory box, that usually featured mythological art on the sides. At Elda, the pyxide features the myth of Hercules.

Antonio Manuel Poveda, lead archaeologist at the site, said of the discoveries:

 “These objects constitute the only Hispanic group belonging to the Byzantine Christian ritual in Spain. In addition, North African, Oriental and local ceramic materials have also been documented, dating from the second half of the 6th century.”

The discovery will help to fill in the blanks of what we know of the extent of the Byzantine empire. It was previously known that their borders stretched as far as Spain, but with the discovery of the Monastery at Elda, it leaves some to wonder where else the Byzantines had put down roots. Work at the site is not expected to conclude any time soon.


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Our favorite stories of celebrities who inspire us in daily life
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
As irmãs biológicas que se tornaram freiras no instituto Iesu Communio
Francisco Veneto
The 5 biological sisters who joined the religious life in just tw...
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Mychal Judge
John Burger
The priests of 9/11
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.