A nighttime fire at the ancient Church of St. John the Baptist in Jerusalem’s Old City caused no casualties and did not harm the important religious artwork in the building. The cause of the blaze remains unclear.
On Wednesday morning there was no sign of fire damage to the elaborate paintings and icons that cover the walls and ceiling of the small church.
According to a church official at the scene, the fire began in a storeroom adjacent to the sanctuary and did not spread. He would not give his name or further details pending conclusions from Israeli fire investigators.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze late Tuesday.
A pair of uniformed Fire and Rescue Service investigators arrived early Wednesday in a small buggy that can move easily through the narrow alleys of the Old City, and were at work inside the church. They would not comment.
The Church of St. John the Baptist, administered by Greek Orthodox clergy, is accessed through a barely noticeable door between shops on Christian Quarter Road, a short distance from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The church is built on the 1,600-year-old ruins of a Byzantine-era house of Christian worship. The current structure’s origins are thought to date to between the 8th and 11th centuries CE.