New Church of St. Mary, the Theotokos (Jerusalem)
The church known as the New Church of St. Mary, the Mother of God (Theotokos) was one of the major building projects of the Emperor Justinian. It was his largest project in Jerusalem and was popularly known as the Nea, which means ‘new’ in Greek. The Nea was located on the eastern side of Jerusalem’s main street called the Cardo Maximus, near the south end, in what is now the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. Only in recent times have the remains of this great church been uncovered by archaeologists.
The Nea was completed in 543 A.D. and its construction was noted in a book about the Justinian’s building projects by the Byzantine historian Procopius. The church was designed by an architect from Constantiople named Theodoros. Justinian directed that the church was to be built on the highest hills of Jerusalem and specified it size. Due to the size of the church as specified by Justinian, it could not be built entirely on solid rock. Thus, the south-eastern part of the structure was placed on a built up arched foundation amongst which were constructed a series of cisterns. A tabula ansata found in one of the cisterns associated Emperor Flavius Justinianus (Justinian) with the project which it was also noted under the care of “…most holy Constantinus, Priest and Hegumen…