Today we drove off road in the Judean desert to high above Jericho to get within reach of a mountain fortress called Dagon (by Josephus), then we still had to climb up and down over 3 mountains and take the “snake path” that zigzagged to the top.
On the way up you can look down the mountain and see the corner of the monastery below you.
On the top is an enclosure wall with an open gate built before World War I to protect the church which was never completed.
Inside the walls there are a few capitals and architectural elements scattered on the surface from the Herodian period.
The church is an interesting shape, an apse, no columns, a narthex? but two semi-circular areas on either side by the apse and one rectangular area across from a semi-circular area at the entrance. At first I thought maybe it was a cruciform church but I wonder if the shape is like an old key and that the church is somehow tied to the story of Saint Peter who was given the keys to the Kingdom.
That completes the set of desert fortresses and I can guide you at Alexandrium (Sartaba), Dagon, Cypros, Hasmonean & Herodian palaces, Hyrcania, Machaerus (that’s in Jordan), Herodium and Masada.