. . . your guide to visiting the holy places  
If you have found See the Holy Land helpful and would like to support our work, please make a secure donation.
The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Shepherds’ Field

West Bank

Shepherds' Field

Shepherd and sheep near Bethlehem (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Caves where shepherds “kept watch over their flock” still abound in the area east of Bethlehem. Here, the Gospel of Luke tells us, an angel announced the birth of Jesus.

The angel’s good news was not given to the noble or pious, but to workers with a low reputation. Jewish literature ranked “shepherd” as among the most despised occupations of the time — but Christ was to identify himself with this occupation when he called himself “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

The traditional place of the angel’s visit is the town of Beit Sahur. Originally known as the Village of the Shepherds, it is now an eastern suburb of Bethlehem.

The tradition connected with the Shepherds’ Field is complicated by the fact that archaeologists have identified more than one possible site.

 

Three possible locations

• In the eastern part of Beit Sahur is a red-domed Greek Orthodox church at a site known as Kaniset el-Ruat (Church of the Shepherds). This site is identified with the biblical Tower of Edar (Tower of the Flock) where Jacob settled after his wife Rachel died. Eusebius (AD 265-340) says the tower, 1000 paces from Bethlehem, marked the place where the shepherds received the angel’s message.

Excavations here have uncovered a series of remains dating back to a mosaic-floored 4th-century subterranean church, said to have been built by St Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine.

Shepherds' Field

Catholic chapel at Shepherds’ Field (Seetheholyland.net)

• On the north ridge of Beit Sahur, about 400 metres north of the Orthodox site, a Catholic site is located in an area called Siyar el-Ghanam (Place for Keeping Sheep).

A tent-shaped Chapel of the Angels, designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, adjoins the remains of a 4th-century church and a later agricultural monastery. Paintings in the chapel depict the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds paying homage to Jesus and the shepherds celebrating the birth of the Messiah.

Beyond the chapel is a cave for small group worship. The area is administered by the Franciscans.

Eastwards from the Greek and Catholic churches is the Protestant Shepherd’s Field, a meadow filled with pine trees. Here a YMCA rehabilitation centre contains large caves with pottery remains.

 

Field of Boaz is nearby

Beyond Shepherd’s Field to the east is the plain known as the Field of Boaz (or Field of Ruth).

Ruth, a Moabite woman from east of the Dead Sea, is one of the few women to have a book of the Old Testament named after her. She is celebrated especially for her statement of devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, who came from Bethlehem: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God . . . .”

The “Field of Ruth” was really the field of Boaz, a wealthy landowner. She met him while gathering up the barley left behind by the harvesters. They married and she became the great-grandmother of King David.

Other sites in the Bethlehem area:

Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity

Grotto of the Nativity

St Jerome’s Cave

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

Milk Grotto

Field of Boaz

Tomb of Rachel

Herodium

 

In Scripture:

An angel appears to the shepherds: Luke 2:8-20

The story of Ruth: Ruth 1-4

 

Administration:

Greek Orthodox church (972-2-2773135): Open 8-11.30am, 2-6pm (5pm Oct-Mar); telephone first

Franciscan chapel (972-2-2772413): 8am-5pm (Sunday closed noon-2pm)

YMCA, Shepherds’ Field (972-2-2772713)

 

 

References

Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Shepherds’ Fields, Bethlehem (Sacred Destinations)

Mount Tabor

Israel

Mount Tabor, rising dome-like from the Plain of Jezreel, is the mountain where Christian tradition places the Transfiguration of Jesus.

Mount Tabor with Franciscan monastery on top (Seetheholyland.net)

Mount Tabor with Franciscan monastery on top (Seetheholyland.net)

Scholars disagree on whether Mount Tabor was the scene of that event (described in Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9:28-36). However, it has throughout history been a place of mystique and atmosphere, where humanity has sought contact with the divine.

Its unique contours — variously described as “breast-shaped”, “hump-backed” and “resembling an upside down tea cup” — captured the imagination of ancient peoples who attached to it supernatural qualities.

Mount Tabor stands some 420 metres above the plain in lower Galilee, 7km east of Nazareth. It held a strategic position at the junction of trade routes. Many battles have been fought at its foot.

In the Old Testament, Mount Tabor is described as a sacred mountain and a place for worship. It is not mentioned by name in the New Testament.

 

Location of Transfiguration is questioned

Mount Tabor

Church buildings on Mount Tabor (Wikimedia)

The Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration — a momentous event in which Peter, James and John were introduced to the divine incarnation of Christ, the God-Man — do not specify the place. They simply say it was a “high mountain” in Galilee.

Christian tradition in the early centuries named the mountain as Tabor. This location is cited in early apocryphal writings and was accepted by the Syriac and Byzantine churches.

Many biblical scholars now question this tradition. Mount Tabor’s location does not fit well into events before and after the Transfiguration. At the time, a Hasmonean fortress stood on the summit.

And would Tabor be considered a “high mountain”, especially compared to other mountains in the vicinity? (It’s actually more than 200 metres lower than Jerusalem.)

These scholars see the much higher Mount Hermon as a more likely location.

Nevertheless, a succession of churches and a monastery were built on Mount Tabor from the fourth century.

 

Hairpin bends take taxis to the top

Mount Tabor

Mosaic of Transfiguration in apse of Church of the Transfiguration (Seetheholyland.net)

After the Crusaders were defeated in the 12th century and the area was taken over by the Turks, the Mamluk sultan Baybars destroyed all the religious buildings on Mount Tabor in 1263. Tabor remained deserted for nearly 400 years until the Franciscans negotiated permission to settle there.

Early pilgrims used to climb 4300 steps cut into the rocky slope to reach the summit. These days taxis negotiate a succession of hairpin bends before they suddenly reach the summit.

The present Catholic and Greek Orthodox buildings (separated by a wall) were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The prominent Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, stands among ruins of a Benedictine monastery. A bas-relief of the architect, who designed many of the Holy Land’s churches, is set into a wall on the right of the entrance.

Its entrance is flanked by chapels dedicated to Moses and Elijah, who were seen with Jesus during his Transfiguration. The event itself is depicted above the main altar in the central apse.

In the crypt under the church are the altar and fragments of walls of a Byzantine church. There is a tradition that the rock floor of the crypt is where Jesus stood during the Transfiguration.

The Greek Orthodox church, often not open to visitors, honours Elijah. It too is built on the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches.

 

‘Breadbasket’ scene of battles

Mount Tabor’s height affords uninterrupted panoramas. From the balcony of the Franciscan hospice, the view is of the plain of Jezreel, bounded by the Carmel range and the mountains of Samaria.

The fertile plain is called “the breadbasket of Israel”, a reminder that one of the meanings of Jezreel is “God sows”.

Mount Tabor

Jezreel Valley from Mount Tabor (Seetheholyland.net)

But this plain has often resounded to the clash of battle.

On the slopes of Mount Tabor, in the time of the Judges, the prophetess Deborah and her general Barak marshalled their warriors before sweeping down to rout the 900 chariots of Sisera and his Canaanites (Judges 4:4-16).

Armies of all the great generals who campaigned in the Middle East have tramped across the plain, from the pharaoh Thutmose III to General Edmund Allenby, and including Alexander the Great and Napoleon.

And in the Book of Revelation, it is named as the scene of the battle of Armageddon (also called Harmagedon or Har-Megiddo), in which good will triumph over evil.

 

In Scripture:

Deborah and Barak’s triumph: Judges 4:4-14

The Transfiguration: Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9:28-36

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-4-6620720

Open: 8am-noon, 2-5pm

 

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel (Corazin Publishing, 1992)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Mount Tabor (Franciscan Cyberspot)
Mount Tabor (BiblePlaces)
Mount Tabor (Christus Rex)

Mount of Beatitudes

Israel

Mount of Beatitudes

Cloister of Beatitudes church overlooking Sea of Galilee (Seetheholyland.net)

The Mount of Beatitudes, believed to be the setting for Jesus’ most famous discourse, the Sermon on the Mount, is one of the most beautifully serene places in the Holy Land.

Overlooking the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, it offers an enchanting vista of the northern part of the lake and across to the cliffs of the Golan Heights on the other side.

Within sight are the scenes of many of the events of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, including the town of Capernaum 3km away, where he made his home. Just below is Sower’s Cove, where it is believed Jesus taught the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9) from a boat moored in the bay.

The exact site of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:28) is unknown. Pilgrims commemorate the event at the eight-sided Church of the Beatitudes, built on the slope of the mount and accessible by a side road branching off the Tiberias-Rosh Pina highway.

The Mount of Beatitudes is also understood to be the place where Jesus met his apostles after his Resurrection and commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20).

 

Plenty of space for a crowd

Mount of Beatitudes

Sea of Galilee from the cave of Eremos (© Don Schwager)

The spacious slope of the Mount of Beatitudes (also known as Mount Eremos, a Greek word meaning solitary or uninhabited) would have provided ample space for a large crowd to gather to hear Jesus.

The 4th-century pilgrim Egeria records a tradition that may go back to the Jewish-Christians of Capernaum. She tells of a cave in the hillside at the Seven Springs, near Tabgha, “upon which the Lord ascended when he taught the Beatitudes”.

Archaeologist Bargil Pixner says: “The terrace above this still existing cave, called Mughara Ayub, must be considered the traditional place of the Sermon on the Mount. The hillcrest of Eremos indeed offers a magnificent view over the entire lake and the surrounding villages. The cragginess of this hill meant it was left uncultivated and enabled Jesus to gather large crowds around him without causing damage to the farmers.”

A Byzantine church was erected nearby in the 4th century, and it was used until the 7th century. Its ruins have been discovered downhill from the present church.

 

Eight sides for eight beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes

Church of the Beatitudes (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of the Beatitudes, an elegant octagonal building with colonnaded cloisters, blends into the slope rather than dominating it. It was built in 1938 for a Franciscan order of nuns, to a design by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi — and partly financed by the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The eight sides of the light and airy church represent the eight beatitudes, and these are also shown in Latin in the upper windows.

The centrally placed altar is surmounted by a slender arch of alabaster and onyx. Around it, the seven virtues (justice, charity, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope and temperance) are depicted by symbols in the mosaic floor.

In the landscaped garden, three altars are provided for group worship.

tjwbanner590x65

 

Sermon was radical and countercultural

The Sermon on the Mount, a powerful summary of the fundamental teachings of Jesus, opens with his proclamation of the eight beatitudes, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . .” (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus taught orally, rather than by writing. Matthew notes that he sat down before speaking, a typical Jewish position for teaching.

Scholars suggest that Matthew’s account is not a report of one, uninterrupted sermon given on one occasion. Rather, it is believed, Matthew took a core sermon and added various teachings given at different times.

The sermon indicated how Jesus’ followers, described as “the salt of the earth”, should live so that they would be in right relationship with God and with others. “For I tell you,” he said, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Biblical scholar Peter Walker comments: “The serenity of this beautiful place, however, may be slightly unhelpful here, suggesting that Jesus’ words were calm and soothing when in fact they were radical, demanding, authoritative, revolutionary and countercultural. Jesus was calling Israel to a new way of life . . . .”

 

Christian centre on the peak

On the peak of the Mount of Beatitudes is a Christian centre for meetings, studies and retreats called Domus Galilaeae (House of Galilee), opened in 2000. It is situated just over 1km from the ruins of ancient Chorazin.

The centre and adjacent monastery belongs to the Neo-Catechumenal Way, a Catholic movement for Christian formation. Its striking architecture was designed by the movement’s founder, Kiko Argüello, and a team of architects.

The library specialises in books about the Sermon on the Mount. The chapel has a large painting by Argüello, combining Eastern and Western Christian symbols and paying homage to the Church’s Jewish roots.

Related site:

Sea of Galilee

 

In Scripture:

The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:1-7:28

The parable of the sower: Mark 4:1-9

Jesus commissions the disciples: Matthew 28:16-20

 

Administered by: Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Tel.: 972-4-6790978

Open: 8-11.45am, 2.30-5pm (4pm Oct-Mar)

 

 

References

Blaiklock, E. M.: Eight Days in Israel (Ark Publishing, 1980)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus Through Galilee According to the Fifth Gospel (Corazin Publishing, 1992)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Mount of Beatitudes (BibleWalks)

Church of Dominus Flevit

Jerusalem

Church of Dominus Flevit

Teardrop-shaped Church of Dominus Flevit (Seetheholyland.net)

The little teardrop Church of Dominus Flevit, halfway down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, recalls the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem.

This poignant incident occurred during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, when crowds threw their cloaks on the road in front of him and shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Looking down on the city, Jesus wept over it as he prophesied its future destruction. Enemies would “set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side . . . crush you to the ground . . . and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognise the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Within 40 years, in AD 70, Jesus’ prophesy was fulfilled. Roman legions besieged Jerusalem and, after six months of fighting, burnt the Temple and levelled the city.

 

Teardrop shape recalls Christ’s grief

Church of Dominus Flevit

Window behind the altar in the Church of Dominus Flevit (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

The panoramic view from the Church of Dominus Flevit (Latin for “the Lord wept”) makes it easy to imagine the scene as Christ looked down on the city.

• Rising proud behind the city wall, in the place of today’s Dome of the Rock, stood the Temple — a gleaming vision of white marble and gold facings, huge bronze doors and colonnaded porticos.

• Beyond rose the grand Hasmonean palace, then serving as the Praetorium, and Herod’s Upper Palace with its three enormous towers.

• And in the houses and the streets were the men, women and children of Jerusalem, unaware of the fate that was to befall the Holy City.

Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi symbolised Christ’s grief over the city by designing the Dominus Flevit Church in the shape of a teardrop, with tear phials on the four corners of its dome.

Church of Dominus Flevit

Hen and chickens on altar in Church of Dominus Flevit (Seetheholyland.net)

At the foot of the altar, a mosaic of a hen gathering her chickens under her wings recalls Christ’s words “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

Behind the altar is a much-photographed picture window overlooking the city. The cross and chalice in its arch-shaped design focus not on the Dome of the Rock but on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

Ancient mosaic floor is preserved

The Church of Dominus Flevit was built in 1955, but occupies an ancient site. It stands on the ruins of a Byzantine church from the 5th century, dedicated to the prophetess St Anna, and in an area of tombs dating back as far as 1600 BC.

Examples of the two types of tombs discovered by excavators have been left visible.

Also unearthed were the remains of an elaborate mosaic floor from the Byzantine church. It has been preserved, to the left of the entrance.

The mosaic is richly decorated with intersecting circles and pictures of fruit, leaves and flowers.

An inscription in Greek refers to Simon, a “friend of Christ”, who “decorated this place of prayer and offered it to Christ our Lord for the forgiveness of his sins and for the repose of his brother . . . .”

In Scripture:

Jesus laments over Jerusalem: Luke 13:34

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: Luke 19:37-44

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-6266450

Open: 8-11.45am; 2.30-5pm

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus in Jerusalem – his First and Last Days in Judea (Corazin Publishing, 1996)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)

External links

Dominus Flevit (Christus Rex)
Dominus Flevit panorama (Jerusalem360.com)

Church of All Nations

Jerusalem

Church of All Nations

Facade of Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of All Nations, standing near the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, is built over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony the night before he was crucified.

The church and the adjacent Garden of Gethsemane, with its eight ancient olive trees, provide an evocative place for meditation, especially when visited at night.

The church is also known as the Basilica of the Agony. Completed in 1924, it is the third church on the site.

Its design blends the façade of a typically Roman basilica with a roof of 12 small domes that suggest an Eastern character. The richly-coloured triangular mosaic at the top of the façade makes it a Jerusalem landmark.

 

Jesus prayed in anguish

Church of All Nations

Rock of Agony in the Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell that Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper.

He left eight of the disciples together in one place and withdrew further with Peter, James and John. He asked them — the three who had witnessed his Transfiguration — to stay awake with him while he prayed.

Jesus “threw himself on the ground” (Matthew 26:39) and in his anguish “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44). But the three disciples, all of them fishermen who were used to working through the night, could not stay awake “because of grief” (Luke 22:45).

Then a group from the chief priests and elders arrived to arrest Jesus. They were led by Judas, who betrayed his Master with a kiss.

 

Sombre atmosphere in church

Church of All Nations

Main altar in Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

An atmosphere of sorrowful reverence pervades the Church of All Nations. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, evoked the night-time of the Agony by leaving the interior in semi-darkness, relieved only by subdued natural light filtered through violet-blue alabaster windows.

The sombre blue of a star-studded night sky is recreated in the ceiling domes, the stars being surrounded by olive branches reminiscent of the Gethsemane garden.

In front of the high altar is a flat outcrop of rock, which a long Christian tradition identifies as the Rock of Agony where Jesus prayed.

There is a large mosaic in each of the three apses. From left to right, they represent The Kiss of Judas, Christ in Agony being Consoled by an Angel, and The Arrest of Jesus.

 

Many nations contributed

The basilica is called the Church of All Nations because many countries contributed to the cost of construction.

National symbols of 12 donors — Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the United States of America — are inside the ceiling domes.

The mosaics in the apses were donated by Hungary, Ireland and Poland. The wrought-iron wreath around the Rock of Agony was given by Australia.

The wreath is in the form of a crown of thorns with olive branches. A pair of thorn birds in front of a Communion chalice symbolise souls who wish to share the cup of Christ’s Passion. Two silver doves are depicted as sacrificial victims caught in agony in the thorns.

Original mosaic floor discovered

During construction, parts of the mosaic floor of the original Byzantine church were discovered. These were preserved under glass and may be seen in the floor of the south aisle.

The architect then decided to copy this 4th-century mosaic design in the floor of the modern church, to suggest a spiritual continuity throughout the ages of faith.

Church of All Nations

Triangular mosaic on facade of Church of All Nations (Seetheholyland.net)

On the façade of the Church of All Nations, the triangular area over the great portal displays a much-photographed mosaic.

Christ is depicted as the mediator between God and mankind, on whose behalf he gives his very heart which an angel is shown receiving into his hands.

On Christ’s left, a throng of lowly people, in tears, look to him with confidence. On his right, a group of the powerful and wise acknowledge the shortcomings of their might and learning.

On the summit of the façade stand two stags on either side of a cross. Below the mosaic, statues of the four Evangelists are separated by three arches.

Related site:

Gethsemane

In Scripture:

Jesus prays in Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; Mark 32-42

Jesus is arrested: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-12

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-6266444

Open: 8am-noon, 2-6pm (5pm Oct-Mar)

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Maier, Paul L. (trans.): Josephus: The Essential Writings (Kregel Publications, 1988)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Dillon, Edward: “The Sanctuaries at Gethsemane”, Holy Land, spring 1998
Storme, Albert: Gethsemane (Franciscan Printing Press, 1970)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Gethsemane (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
The Church of All Nations panorama (Jesus in Jerusalem)

Bethany

West Bank

The little village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 3km from Jerusalem, was a favourite place of rest and refuge for Jesus.

Bethany

Entrance to the Tomb of Lazarus (Seetheholyland.net)

Here he knew the intimacy and friendship of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And here, in the cemetery just below the village, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

When Lazarus was dying, as John’s Gospel (11:1-44) recounts, his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus delayed his arrival until four days after Lazarus had been buried, “so that the Son of God may be glorified”.

Arriving at the tomb, Jesus called: “Lazarus, come out!” To the amazement of mourners who had witnessed the burial, the dead man walked out. This miracle confirmed the determination of the religious leaders in Jerusalem to have Jesus put to death.

Bethany (not to be confused with Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Christ was baptised) is also associated with two other events:

• While Christ was visiting his friends’ home, Martha complained that her sister Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to him, had left all the work to her. Christ replied: “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her”. (Luke 10:38-42)

• At dinner in the house of Simon the Leper, a week before the crucifixion, Mary took a jar of expensive ointment and poured it over Christ’s feet — an act he saw as the anointing of his body for burial. (John 12:1-8).

 

Pilgrims since early centuries

Bethany

View of Bethany, with, from left, the Catholic Church of St Lazarus, the Al-Ozir Mosque and the Greek Orthodox church (© Welcometohosanna.com)

The present Arab village, on the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, is called Al-Azariyeh, an Arabic version of Lazarus. The original village was probably higher up the hill to the west of the tomb of Lazarus.

The Franciscan Albert Storme says the reason why pilgrims have been drawn to this place is not based on “some ‘casual’ wonder. In their eyes, Lazarus’ resurrection prefigured that of Christ, and heralded their own return from the grave.”

Christian churches have been built here since the early centuries. In AD 333, the Anonymous Pilgrim of Bordeaux reported seeing “the crypt where Lazarus had been laid to rest”.

By the 14th century the churches were in ruins and the original entrance to the tomb had been turned into a mosque. In the 16th century the Franciscans cut through the soft rock to create the present entrance.

 

27 steps to burial chamber

Bethany

Inside the Tomb of Lazarus, with the burial chamber at lower right (© Welcometohosanna.com)

Today’s pilgrims enter from the street down a flight of 24 well-worn and uneven steps to a vestibule. Three more steps lead to the burial chamber, little more than 2 metres long. Tradition says Jesus stood in the vestibule to call Lazarus from the grave.

The present Catholic church, with mosaics depicting the events that occurred here, was built in 1954. Architect Antonio Barluzzi contrasted the sadness of death with the joy of resurrection by designing a crypt-like, windowless church, into which light floods from the large oculus in its dome.

A Greek Orthodox church, dedicated to Simon the Leper, is to the west of the tomb.

Since 2005 Bethany, in the West Bank, has been cut off from Jerusalem by Israel’s separation wall. The wall actually cuts across the main street, making a serious impact on the live of residents and on the town’s economy.

What used to be a 10-minute drive from the Mount of Olives to Bethany now requires a lengthy detour, so the Tomb of Lazarus has become isolated from the normal pilgrim and tourist route.

In Scripture:

Jesus raises Lazarus to life: John 11:1-44

Jesus visits Martha and Mary: Luke 10:38-42

The anointing at Bethany: John 12:1-8

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-2799291

Open: Apr-Sep 8-11.25am, 2-6pm, Oct-Mar 8-11.25am, 2-5pm

 

References

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)
Storme, Albert: “Bethany”, Holy Land, Winter 2000 and Summer 2003

 

External links

Bethany (Franciscan Cyberspot)
Bethany (Christus Rex)
All content © 2017, See the Holy Land | Site by Ravlich Consulting & Mustard Seed
You are welcome to promote site content and images through your own
website or blog, but please refer to our Terms of Service | Login