Sepphoris, or Zippori, is located in the lower Galilee, halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The historian Josephus described it as “the ornament of all Galilee” and it was the administrative capital of the Galilee in the 1st century. It features an impressive archeology site dating back to the Hasmoneans who settled there in the 2nd century BC, as well as subsequent Byzantine, Arab and Crusader ruins. The name comes from the Hebrew word tsipor which means “bird,” presumably for the birds-eye view afforded from its hill.
While Sepphoris is not mentioned in the New Testament, the city was under construction during the lifetime of Jesus. Some scholars speculate that Joseph may have worked as a tekton (or “builder”) in the construction of Sepphoris. Oral tradition sites Sepphoris as the hometown of Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim. Perhaps Joseph met his bride-to-be working in Sepphoris, and perhaps his apprentice, Jesus, may have laid some of the stones there!
Sepphoris is most famous for its Byzantine mosaics, including a woman’s face known as the ‘Mona Lisa of the Galilee’ and a well-preserved zodiac featuring Greek deities on the synagogue floor. Sepphoris was also a center of Jewish life in the 2nd century. The Sanhedrin convened there for a time and it was the birthplace of the Mishnah, the first written codification of Jewish oral law.