Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (1)



Leaving the architectural garden (walking north) and crossing the remains of the Herodian wall/Umayyad fortress wall to the north you immediately come across the remains of a palace complex. Commonly known by a variety of names (e.g. – the Palace of the Procurators, the Promontory Palace, the Reef Palace) this palace consisted of two sections: the Upper Palace and the Lower Palace. A historical marker explains:

“The edifice consists of two main units: the Lower Palace comprising the private wing, and the Upper Palace, housing the public wing. The latter, built around a large peristyle courtyard, was associated with the ruler’s judicial and administrative functions, as well as the reception and the entertainment of dignitaries. The Upper Palace was built shortly after the erection of the Lower Palace.

“Who built this palace? Was it King Herod, on the occasion of the inauguration of the city? Was it a Roman governor, when Caesarea became the capital of the province? Archaeology could not solve this riddle.”

While we do not know with absolute certainty who first built this palace, Jerome Murphy-O’Conner notes (p.243) what we do know:

“This two-level complex was erected by the Romans after they assumed direct control of Judea and Samaria in AD 6. It was the administrative centre (praetorium) from which procurators, such as Pontus Pilate (AD 26-36) governed Judea and Samaria. The apostle Paul was imprisoned here for over two years under the procurators Felix and Festus (Acts 23.31-35; 24.27).”

The photograph above was taken while standing near the base of the Herodian wall/Umayyad fortress wall, looking north. The remains of the entrance into the courtyard for the Upper Palace can be seen running virtually the length of the center of the photograph from left to right. The courtyard proper begins at the extreme left of the photo. Following the courtyard, and located on a short peninsula (not pictured) that extends into the Mediterranean (preceding from east to west), are the remains of a triclinium, a large pool, and the Lower Palace. Located in the photograph’s center (and to the right of center) are the remains of the Herodian amphitheatre (aka: stadium), which we’ll make note of a few posts from now.