Columns and Capitals

Ancient Magdala, on the Sea of Galillee, provided us with a complete example of a classical Doric colonnade, extremely rare for the 1st Century. The capitals and columns of Magdala were measured to create precise specifications for replication in our synagogue. We brought these specifications to a quarry near Jenin, whose owner, Abu Abdu, specialized in carving the fine white limestone called Yabis, the stone used to carve the ancient columns and capitals found in excavations of ancient Nazareth.

Measuring the corner columns  Heart-shaped corner column base

Sketch of column head Sketch of the column

Creating the texture of the columns Prepping the stones for placement

The heavy door jambs and columns of the synagogue had to be hoisted and set together very precisely. As stacked stone construction is vulnerable to earthquakes, the door jambs and column drums were pinned together using fiberglass rods and stone epoxy to provide additional tensile reinforcement. A wooden form called a jig was used to ensure accurate positioning and drilling of the pins. In antiquity, this reinforcement was achieved by either pouring or inserting lead into small niches centered into the columns.

Drilling the holes for the door-jambs Drilling the holes for the columns

To ensure an even distribution of load throughout the column, a thin coating of lime putty was applied between stones prior to final setting. The brown band on the lower column drum is mud, temporarily slurried on to prevent staining from the lime. Hoisting the column drums and capitals was no simple matter, even with modern equipment, as the heavier elements (such as heart shaped columns) weighed more than 800 lbs.

Placing the second stone in the column Placing the fourth stone in the column

Columns stacked and ready to be crowned by capitals. Wherever possible, the natural bedrock was integrated into the synagogue walls and benches.

Columns stacked and ready to be crowned by capitals. Wherever possible, the natural bedrock was integrated into the synagogue walls and benches.

The reconstruction process offers extraordinary educational value. Tour groups became more and more impressed with our rising “ruin”, the only 1st Century synagogue being reconstructed in Israel.

The reconstruction process offers extraordinary educational value. Tour groups became more and more impressed with our rising “ruin”, the only 1st Century synagogue being reconstructed in Israel.