A new hospitality project, part of the Magdala project, which uncovered the ancient first-century remains of what is believed to be Mary Magdalene´s hometown, will soon open its doors. The projected guesthouse of 160 rooms, originally scheduled to open a few years ago was delayed due to the discovery of a whole first century city underneath its planned location.
The construction of the project was put on hold, and in conjunction with the Israeli Antiquities Authorities (IAA), the property owners chose to develop the site as a visitor and pilgrimage attraction given its historical, cultural, and religious significance. The excavations that followed discovered a first century synagogue, a marketplace and village area, mikveh’s (Jewish ritual baths) fed from natural spring water still working to this day and recognized to be the only in Israel of this type, as well as remains of a fishing industry, and port.
An important find was also a decorated stone found within the synagogue believed to contain one of the first artistic representations of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, including the oldest menorah sculpted on stone. Coins dating from the years 29 AD – 64 AD were also found on-site, which in addition to its location give pilgrims strong evidence that this was a site in which Jesus preached or perhaps met some of those fishermen who became his first followers.
The connection of the town to Saint Mary Magdalene has been acknowledged since early times, and although initial excavations have yet to reveal direct evidence, archaeologists have testimonies from early pilgrims to the Holy Land connecting Mary to Magdala. Dr. Marcela Zapata-Meza, from Anahuac University in Mexico and Director of the Archaeological Excavations on-site notes how “the early pilgrims to the Holy Land, such as those from the IV and V centuries – Theodosius and Epifanio- described Magdala as the birthplace or hometown of Mary Magdalene. In Epifanio´s case, he wrote how´ …there was a church in the place known as Magdala acknowledging the house where Mary Magdalene lived before the Lord healed her. ´” Fr. Juan Solana, the founder of the project notes how “The location of this site along with its proximity to the Sea of Galilee and in the same property as the exciting discovery of this first-century treasure truly make this a unique hospitality project. I think Magdala truly embodies what our visitors note constantly which is that this is ´a crossroads of Jewish and Christian history. ´ Now we will also be able to offer them a first-century experience in the comforts of the 21st.”
The archaeological site opened to the public in 2014, thanks to the support of many benefactors, from over 20 different countries, as well as visitors from around the world, who donated to help uncover and develop the site. Since then, it has become one of Israel´s leading attractions in the Galilee region. In 2018 the site was voted as one of the Middle East´s top 25 attractions by travel site, TripAdvisor, and top 5 in Israel as well, claiming a Traveller´s Choice Award for that year.
The original hospitality project is now near completion and is expected to have a positive economic impact in a region that is now developing. The property will feature 160 rooms with balconies and views to the Sea of Galilee, the Magdala Archaeological Park or the surrounding nature. Furthermore, international artist Maria Jesus Fernandez, from Chile, as well as Latin American interior designer Sofia Aspe, collaborated in the overall visual aesthetic and interior design of the guesthouse. With its historical connections to a first-century Galilean town this property is amongst the most unique in the region.
The project will be officially inaugurated this upcoming November 24th, 2019, on the feast of Christ the King due to the importance of this special date. In attendance will be major church figures, including His Eminence Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico, Mons. Leopoldo Girelli, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel, Mons. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, O.F.M, Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem, Fr. Eduardo Robles Gil LC, Director General of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement -the congregation in charge of initiating this project- and other religious leaders, as well as representatives from the Government of Israel, the IAA, and the Mayor of Migdal. The event will be live-streamed through Magdala´s website, www.magdala.org, and its social media sites on Facebook and Youtube, @experiencemagdala.