At the intersection of two significant historical routes—the northern Nablus-Jenin road and the western route from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean coast—Sebastia (Sabastiya) is situated about ten kilometers northwest of Nablus. The location provides a stunning view of the nearby farms.
During the second Iron Age, Sebastia served as the region’s capital, and during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, it was a significant urban hub. One of Palestine’s oldest continually inhabited locations, it is still known by its original name, demonstrating a significant degree of cultural continuity. The grave of John the Baptist is located here according to Christian and Islamic beliefs.
Pagans desecrated John’s tomb
The remains of the prophets Elisha and Obadiah, as well as those of John the Baptist, were interred at Sebastiya, according to Christian traditions from the fourth century.
Sebastiya Crypt, home to what is said to be John the Baptist’s and other prophets’ tombs (ATS Pro Terra Sancta).
Samaria/Sebaste is referred to as “where the relics of John the Baptist are guarded” in the Onomasticon (directory of the holy sites) produced by Eusebius, which St. Jerome translated around 390.
By that time, pagans had desecrated the tomb throughout a persecution of Christians under emperor Julian the Apostate, according to a contemporaneous account by the historian Rufinus of Aquileia in the year 362. The bones of the Baptist were saved by passing monks after his remains were burned and the ashes scattered.
Tomb is under cathedral ruins
The grave that is connected to John the Baptist and other prophets is still visited by pilgrims. There are six burial niches carved into the wall of a tomb chamber that is located beneath a tiny domed structure in the cathedral ruins. The remains of John the Baptist are said to reside in the lowest row, between Elisha and Obadiah.
The public area in Sebastiya is dominated by the ruins of the cathedral’s enormous buttressed walls.
The finding of carved ivory referenced in the Bible allowed archaeologists to locate the remains of Ahab’s palace in the vast archaeological park at the top of the hill (1 Kings 22:39). The Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem is where the ivory objects are on exhibit.