MILE STONES OF THE HISTORY OF EMMAUS-NICOPOLIS
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
appears to two of his disciples on the road from Jerusalem to
One of the two men is called Cleophas. They invite Jesus to stay with
During the breaking of the bread, they recognize him as the Lord. On
evening they return back to Jerusalem announcing to the other “Jesus
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
to Jerusalem is 60 stadia (about 11,5 þkm). According to the Codex
from the 4th century and other testimonies from the Orient however
is 160 stadia (about 31 km). Thus it is indeed the early Oriental
indicates Emmaus-Nikopolis. In the 3rd century the New Testament
Emmaus was located there by Origenes and Eusebius. Hieronymus
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
strategic site (1 Mcc 9,50).
In the 2nd and 3rd century AD Emmaus appears as the hometown of
Christians already lived in the city during this period. One of them was
diplomat and city prefect Julius Sextus Africanus (+ after 240 AD). In
he leads a delegation to the emperor Elagabalus with a request
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
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
Bethlehem. The Carmelites of Bethlehem were able to purchase the
land through a generous donation from Madame Bertha Darthigaux
from Pau (France).