T. Slutsky, courtesy Yitzhak Magen

Welcome to Martyrius. A spacious entryhall, lined with feeding troughs for pack-animals, greeted those who passed through the monastery’s main gate, cut into the east wall between stables to the north (left in the drawing) and the church to the south. A huge circular stone, over 8 feet in diameter, was rolled out in times of danger to reinforce the monastery’s wooden doors; in peacetime, the stone was stored in its own niche, to the right of the doors. As security deteriorated during the Byzantine period, the popularity of these stones grew among monasteries on the edge of the Judean desert, which were most susceptible to Saracen raids.