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synagogue in Tzippori-ZODIAC MOSAICThe Tzippori Synagogue (Sepphoris Synagogue,) is an ancient synagogue in Tzippori, an ancient town in Israel that is now a national archaeological park.

The synagogue was built in the late fifth or early sixth century, at a time when the town’s Christian population was increasing and the strength of the Jewish population was diminishing. A mere 20.7 meters long and 8 meters wide, it is the narrowest ancient synagogue yet uncovered in the Land of Israel.

The mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue was rediscovered in 1993 by a crew building a new parking lot at the edge of the well-visited national archaeological park of Tzippori. It is the most spectacular synagogue mosaic uncovered in Israel since the discovery of the Beit Alfa Synagogue mosaic in 1928.

The mosaic floor is divided into seven parts. Near the entrance there is a scene showing the angels visiting Sarah. The next section shows the binding of Isaac. There is a large Zodiac with the names of the months written in Hebrew. Helios sits in the middle, in his sun chariot. Next, there is a row of three panels depicting the offerings in the Temple at Jerusalem, including the “tamid” sacrifice, the showbread and the basket of first fruits. Above this is a depiction of Aaron offering sacrifices in the Tabernacle. Above that is another row of three panels, a Torah Ark, depicted as a pedimented building, and an incense shovel representing the incense shovels used in the Temple, flanked by two panels each displaying the seven-branched Menorah from the Temple at Jerusalem surrounded by symbols of the Jewish holidays including the Lulav and Shofar. The top, or front of the building section of the floor, another row of three panels, shows two lions flanking a wreath, their paws resting on the head of an ox.

The largest panel or central sections of the mosaic is laid out as a large square containing a circle within a circle. This shows the Zodiac with Helios driving his chariot. As with the Hammat Tiberias Synagogue and the Beit Alfa Synagogue, the Zodiac panel at Tzippori features Spandrels depicting the four seasons.