St. George’s Church in Lod
Located approximately nine miles to the southeast of Tel Aviv, the city of Lod is not particularly known as a tourist destination. However, those traveling on a Christian Israel tour will find the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George worth a visit. Named for the 4th century Christian martyr St. George, who is best remembered for having bravely fought dragons, the current church here was built in 1870 over the ruins of an earlier basilica.
Most visitors find the entrance to be relatively modest, especially compared to the grandness of the church’s interior. Glance up over the doorway to appreciate a rendering of St. George, seen here with a dragon. Walk among the many examples of Christian art that decorate the church walls, illuminated by tall, flickering candles that are lit throughout the church. Follow one of the two flights of steps to a small stone cave below ground, where St. George is buried. The lid of the golden tomb of St. George is decorated with a bas-relief sculpture of St. George himself, holding a cross.
In an unexplained break from tradition, the church’s twin apses, which remain from a 15th century structure, face north rather than east. Plenty of simple wooden benches provide seating for tired tourists on the main level.
When permission was granted by Ottoman authorities to build the church, it was stipulated that part of the grounds remain available for a mosque. Today, the church of St. George is restricted to the northeast corner of the former Byzantine basilica. The rest of the space is used by the El Omri Mosque, an active Muslim prayer hall marked by a tall minaret.