The Original Magdala Stone is the Highlight of the Menorah Exhibition in Rome
Vatican City, May 15th, 2017 – This morning the exhibition “Menorah: Worship, History and Legend” was officially inaugurated by the Vatican Museum Director, the Holy See, the State of Israel, the Jewish community of Rome and the Hebrew Museum Director of Rome. Over 130 items are on display as part of the exhibition with the highlight being the original Magdala Stone, featuring the oldest menorah carving ever found in Israel and being displayed publicly for the first time.
During a press conference offered today, the Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, highlighted the Magdala Stone as the most important item of the exhibition for its historical meaning. The stone features a carved seven-branched menorah, the first of its kind found thus far. The stone was discovered in the middle of a unique synagogue and alongside many other archaeological finds in Magdala. All findings date these to the Second Temple Period and Jesus´ time. The original stone is the center piece of the exhibition at Nel Braccio Di Carlo Magno Museum in St. Peter´s Square.
The menorah exhibition has an important link to the city of Rome as the Menorah became the primary Jewish symbol after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 CE. From that date onward, the menorah has been carved on Titus’s arch in Rome remarking the event in history. Additionally, the menorah was the main symbol of the Jewish State foundation in 1948.
The temporary exhibition is divided between the Vatican museum and the Hebrew museum in Rome. It is now open to the public and will be featured for the next three months. Visitors will be able to learn more about ancient items throughout history that unite Judaism and Christianity.
(2nd Picture: From left to right: The Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See Mr. Oren David, Chief Archaeologist Dina Gorni and Magdala General Director Fr. Juan Solana LC)
About the Magdala Stone:
One of the most significant recent archaeological finds in the Holy Land, the Magdala Stone holds clues that will help scholars establish a more complete picture of first century Judaism. The Magdala Stone is likely the earliest known artistic depiction of the Second Temple. The front of the stone depicts the oldest carved image of the Second Temple’s seven-branched menorah ever found, and it is this discovery that has produced intense excitement among the archaeologists at Magdala.
The long side of the stone depicts the side of a building with pillared archways, with three-dimensional design to create the illusion of appearing inside the temple. The back of the stone depicts a pillared structure with two wheels above a geometric shape, illustrating fire. Presumably, the front and sides of the stone carvings represent the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and the back side depicting wheels and fire represents the Holy of Holies.
Also of great interest to scholars examining the stone is the large rosette on the top side of the stone, consisting of six petals surrounded by six identical petals. The symbolic meaning of this rosette has not yet been established, but the number twelve could relate to several biblical traditions and its prominence on the stone indicates it is certainly of great significance. The stone is covered in decorative symbols relating to the structure of the Temple and ceremonial Jewish objects that may unlock many unsolved mysteries which have long baffled archaeologists.