A Visit to the Synagogue at Delos

A highlight on a visit to the sacred Greek island of Delos (it is about a 40 minute boat ride from Mykonos) was a visit to the synagogue on the remote east side of the island (see the end of this post).

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View of the “Moses Seat” located on the west wall of the synagogue
Note the marble benches on both sides of the seat
Click on all images for high resolution versions

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View to the west, southwest at the various rooms of the synagogue
Note the “Moses Seat” in the upper right part of the image
In the lower left portion of the image is one of the entrances into the synagogue

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View to the west of the “Moses Seat” in context
Again, note the marble benches on both side of the seat

This synagogue is said to date to the second half of the second century B.C. which would make it the oldest synagogue yet discovered.

I knew the general location of the synagogue, but thought I would ask in the Delos museum how to get there (bad mistake).  The answer was, “that side of the island is closed.”  Well . . . I hadn’t traveled 6,000 miles by land, air, and sea, just to see this synagogue and be “turned away,” so we set off on the dirt road just to the north of the museum.

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Dirt road/path leading to the synagogue
Take the right branch (path along the wall) heading east toward the sea
It is about a 15 minute walk to the synagogue from the museum

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Approaching the synagogue from the west — looking east
The synagogue is in fact right on the shore to the Aegean Sea
The remains of the synagogue are in the center of the image

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Map of the synagogue (#75) and surrounding structures
Gymnasium/Palestra (#72) and Stadium (#73)

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5 responses to “A Visit to the Synagogue at Delos

  1. “The synagogue is in fact right on the shore to the Aegean Sea…”
    and with a view – I like that.

  2. Pingback: A synagogue on the island of Delos | Ferrell's Travel Blog

  3. I will arrive in Mykonos on the first night and day of Rosh Hashana. I am thinking I will contact my cruise ship(Ruby Princess) to see if we can organize a visit to the Delos synagogue relics.(I have been told that there will be a Rabbi on board to conduct services) How cool would that be to hold a modern service there? I will let you know how it turns out! Cheryll, from California

  4. Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
    In Mt. 23.2 Jesus refers most probably to this synagogue feature: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat”. Another first century Jewish group, the Sadducees (from Zadok) is not mentioned since they functioned as priests in the Temple service (see Ezk. 44.15). Mt. 23. 6 continues: “and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues”. Here Prof. Rasmussen shows ruins of an Hellenistic synagogue on the Island Delos which illustrates these references.

  5. Dear Carl,
    Thank you for this most interesting article. I had always been under the impression that “sit in Moses’ seat” had only been an idiomatic expression about the authority to interpret the Law of Moses. I never even gave it a thought that there could have been an actual “seat” in the synagogue. You opened my eyes to something new! And thank you for the beautiful photos.

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