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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

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Tomb of King David

Jerusalem

 

One of the holiest sites for Jews is the building on Mount Zion known as the Tomb of King David — the celebrated Old Testament warrior king of Israel who is traditionally credited with composing many of the Psalms.

King David's Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2014 (Seetheholyland.net)

King David’s Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

The Old Testament clearly indicates that David was buried somewhere else. However, the site — directly underneath the Cenacle, where Christians commemorate the Last Supper — remains a place of pilgrimage for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

David’s death at the end of his 40-year reign is recorded in 1 Kings 2:10: “Then David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David.”

Archaeologists have shown that the City of David, also called Zion (or Sion), was the low spur south of the Temple Mount and east of the present Mount Zion.

This area, also known as Ophel, is now known to have been the original Jerusalem — making it much older than what is now called the Old City.

But excavations here since the 1800s have failed to identify the royal tomb. (Another tradition places the burial of David in Bethlehem, but excavations have not revealed the tomb there either.)

 

Temple Mount moved across the valley

Tomb of King David

Statue of King David outside the Tomb of King David (Seetheholyland.net)

How did the confusion over David’s burial place arise? There are two likely reasons.

• First, perhaps at the time Solomon built his Temple, the Temple Mount came to be called Mount Zion. In the first century AD, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the name was transferred to its present location across the Tyropoeon Valley.

Until excavations in the 19th century, archaeologists believed that the city of David was on this hill too.

• In the 10th century a belief that David’s tomb was on the present Mount Zion began to develop among Christian pilgrims, who celebrated David’s memory along with that of St James, the first bishop of Jerusalem.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present Tomb of David with its large stone cenotaph. However, three of the walls of the room where the cenotaph stands are much older — apparently from a synagogue-church used by first-century Judaeo-Christians, which became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims.

Sarcophagus is empty

Tomb of King David

Torah case in niche over Tomb of King David (Picturesfree.org)

Entry to the Tomb of David is through a courtyard which is part of a former Franciscan monastery that was closed in 1551.

The complex has three simple rooms, all without furniture except for wooden benches.

The entrance hall is used as a synagogue. There is a Christian tradition that this is where Christ washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.

The massive cenotaph stands in front of a niche blackened by pilgrims’ candles. Over it is draped a velvet cloth with embroidered stars of David and inscriptions from the Jewish Scriptures. On it are scrolls of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) in ornate cases.

The cenotaph is an empty sarcophagus. In 1859 an Italian engineer, Ermete Pierotti, investigated the tomb and reported that underneath was a small, shallow and empty cave.

 

Special significance until 1967

The Tomb of David was of special significance to Jews between 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, and 1967.

During this period the Old City was under Jordanian control and there was no access to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Since Mount Zion was in Israeli control, Jews would come to the Tomb of David to pray.

 

In Scripture:

King David’s last words: 2 Samuel 23:1-7

King David’s death: 1 Kings 2:10

King David’s reign: 1 Chronicles 29:26-30

 

Administered by: Israel Ministry of Religious Services

Tel.: 972-2-5388605

Open: 8am-sunset (closes on Fridays at 2pm Apr-Sep and 1pm Oct-Mar). Men and women are separated. Men should cover their heads (kippahs are provided).

 

 

 

References

Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Poni, Shachar: “Renovating Royal Tomb” (The Jewish Voice, February 5, 2010)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

King David’s Traditional Tomb (CenturyOne Foundation)
King David’s Tomb (Mount Zion foundation)
Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)

Cenacle

Jerusalem

Cenacle

Cenacle or Upper Room (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Cenacle room on Mt Zion in Jerusalem is where two major events in the early Christian Church are commemorated: The Last Supper and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.

• The Last Supper was the meal Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he died. During this meal he instituted the Eucharist.

• The coming of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, is recognised as marking the birth of the Christian Church.

The Cenacle is on the upper floor of a two-storey building near the Church of the Dormition, south of the Zion Gate in the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Above it is the minaret of a Muslim mosque; immediately beneath it is the Jewish shrine venerated as the Tomb of King David (though he is not buried there).

 

Different from da Vinci

Cenacle

Pilgrims in the Cenacle (Berthold Werner)

The Cenacle is not universally accepted as the site of the “upper room” mentioned in Mark 14:15 and Luke 22:12.

But archaeological research shows it is constructed on top of a church-synagogue built by the first-century Jewish-Christian community of Jerusalem. Fragments of plaster have been found with Greek graffiti, one of which has been interpreted as containing the name of Jesus.  This would have been the first Christian church.

The only competing site is the Syrian Orthodox Church of St Mark (also on Mt Zion), which also claims to possess the “upper room”.

Wherever the site, the original place of the Last Supper would have been a simple dining hall — quite different from those depicted in paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and other artists.

Symbol of a pelican’s blood

Cenacle

Pelicans feed on their mother’s blood on a column in the Cenacle (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

The present Gothic-arched Cenacle is a restoration of a Crusader chapel built in the 12th century as part of the Church of Our Lady of Mount Zion.

Among the architectural details of the Crusader period is a slender marble column supporting a stone canopy in the south-west corner. Carved into the capital at the top of the column are two young pelicans feeding on the blood their mother has drawn from her breast — symbolising Christ giving his blood for the salvation of humankind.

In the 16th century, after the Turks captured Jerusalem, the room was transformed into a mosque in memory of the prophet David. Its mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and stained-glass windows with Arabic inscriptions remain.

 

Where Peter was left knocking

According to one early Christian tradition, the “upper room” was in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark. He was the author of the Gospel of Mark (and presumably also the young man who fled naked, leaving behind his linen garment, to escape the authorities when Jesus was arrested in the garden at Gethsemane, an event he recorded in Mark 14:51).

This house was a meeting place for the followers of Jesus. It was inside the city walls of Jerusalem, in a quarter that was home to its most affluent residents.

It was also the house to which Peter went after an angel of the Lord released him from prison. Acts 12:12-16 says a maid named Rhoda was so overjoyed at recognising his voice that she left him knocking at the outer gate while she went to tell the gathered disciples.

 

Obtained at huge cost

The site of the Cenacle was also the first holy place the Franciscans obtained, bought in 1335 through the efforts of King Robert and Queen Sancia of Naples, “after difficult negotiations and huge expenses”.

The structures around the “upper room” are in fact remnants of the Franciscan medieval friary.

Over the centuries the buildings the Franciscans constructed were frequently destroyed and friars were ill-treated and even killed.

 

In Scripture:

The Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:1—17:26

Institution of the Eucharist: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4

Administered by: Israel Ministry of the Interior

Tel.: 972-2-6713597 (Franciscan chapel)

Open: 8am-5pm daily

 

 

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)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: Keys to Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Notley, R. Steven: Jerusalem: City of the Great King (Carta Jerusalem, 2015)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus in Jerusalem – his First and Last Days in Judea (Corazin Publishing, 1996)
Poni, Shachar: “Renovating Royal Tomb” (The Jewish Voice, February 5, 2010)
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

Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Biblical Archaeological Review)
The Cenacle (Biblical Archaeology)
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