Emmaus-Nikopolis is located near the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway in the Latrun area. The Greek name Emmaous derives from the Hebrew word Hammath, which means "hot springs”. In fact the remains of an excavated roman bathhouse of this city indicates the thermals, that later were destroyed by an earthquake.

The New Testament relates the story where Christ after the resurrection appears to two of his disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. One of the two men is called Cleophas. They invite Jesus to stay with them. During the breaking of the bread, they recognize him as the Lord. On the same evening they return back to Jerusalem announcing to the other “Jesus friends” the good news, that he is alive (Luc 24,13-35).

According to the Papyrus 75 from the third century, the Codex Vaticanus from the 4th century and other testimonies from the West the distance from Emmaus to Jerusalem is 60 stadia (about 11,5 þkm). According to the Codex Sinaiticus from the 4th century and other testimonies from the Orient however the distance is 160 stadia (about 31 km). Thus it is indeed the early Oriental tradition that indicates Emmaus-Nikopolis. In the 3rd century the New Testament village of Emmaus was located there by Origenes and Eusebius. Hieronymus (4th century) confirm this location to. In the Old Testament Emmaus is mentioned as a Syrian military camp (1 Macc 3,38-4,15). In 161 BC Judas the Maccabeean defeats the Syrian armies near this important strategic site (1 Mcc 9,50). In the 2nd and 3rd century AD Emmaus appears as the hometown of famous Rabbis. Christians already lived in the city during this period. One of them was the diplomat and city prefect Julius Sextus Africanus (+ after 240 AD). In 221 AD he leads a delegation to the emperor Elagabalus with a request rebuild Emmaus including all the rights of a roman city and a new name “Nikopolis”. The fact, that a bishop from Emmaus-Nikopolis participated in the Council of Nicea (325 AD) suggests that Emmaus at the time already had a bishop seat. According to the Church Father Hieronymus the house of Cleophas was transformed into a church. During the Byzantine period two basilicas were build on this site. In the 12th century the Crusaders erected in the middle nave of the original with its three aisles a church with one nave. In the following centuries this Biblical site lost in significance and was nearly forgotten. Only the Arab village Amwas, that was destroyed during the Six Day War in 1968, kept the name since the 7th century AD. In 1853 the Palestine explorer Edward Robinson again identified the ancient site. This scientific discovery was confirmed in 1878 by Mirjam Baouardy, a Palestinian mystic and founder of the Carmelite monastery of Bethlehem. The Carmelites of Bethlehem were able to purchase the plot of land through a generous donation from Madame Bertha Darthigaux from Pau (France).

Our Purpose

A new project of preservation, restoration and development was born in 1993. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Karl-Heinz and Louisa Fleckenstein, the Association of the Friends of Emmaus-Nikopolis was founded. 

Under the Professor Michele Piccirillo (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem) director of the whole project, new archeological campaigns are taking place every year, conducted by Mikko Louhivuori (Finland) with volunteers from all over the world, for example throught pastor Eero Junkkala or Vincent Michel (France).

New discoveries enlighten and widen the knowledge we have of the site, and a visitors’ center and archaeological park are envisioned for the future.


Copyright © 2006 by Emmaus-Nikopolis Foundation