And now I want to tell you of a beautiful piece of work which I have had the privilege of seeing.
During our operations at Gaza or thereabouts the ___ Light Horse (not us) found, on the top of a hill, an ancient ruin. It is quite close to our camp and I have been over once or twice to see it and incidentally take a few rough sketches. It is a floor of an early Christian Church.
Only half of it remains, but that is well nigh unharmed except the places where the lads knocked it about before a guard was put over it. This floor is all made with little pieces of different coloured stone about ___ so big and worked into a magnificent design. The Minister there (Australian) explained it all to me and it was most interesting I can tell you. Apparently the designer had the text ‘I am the true vine and ye are the branches’ in mind, for it starts with a cross at one end (representing Christ) and then vine branches and their fruit and leaves twine in circles up to the altar at the other end. Inside these circles are Lions, Tigers, Flamingoes, etc, etc, and in the centre circle is the ornament representing the ‘Blessed Sacraments’. All the animals are making obeyance to this.
It is truly a wonderful piece of work and not at all like other ancient stuff I have seen in Cairo, etc. Only half the altar remains but on this half, the inscription (which is in Medieval Greek) is undamaged and the Chaplain translated it for me thus: And he contributed generously to the building of this church. He was the most saintly of us all and beloved of God [missing] George [was evidently the man they were talking of] Founded in the 622nd year after Christ.’
Reg Walters, June 1917
Reg Walters’ photos of the Shellal Mosaic.