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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

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Extras

Church of the Ascension

Jerusalem

Tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension (Seetheholyland.net)

Tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension (Seetheholyland.net)

The 64-metre tower that dominates the Mount of Olives skyline belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension. It was built to this height in the 1870s so that pilgrims unable to walk to the Jordan River could climb its 214 steps and at least see the river.

Atop the freestanding square tower is a sharply-pointed belfry. It contains an eight-ton bell, cast in Russia and pulled and pushed — mainly by women pilgrims — on a circular wagon from the port of Jaffa. It was the first Christian bell to ring in the Ottoman city of Jerusalem.

While the church is dedicated to the Ascension of Jesus — an event most Christians believe took place about 200 metres further west at the Dome of the Ascension — it also claims a connection to St John the Baptist.

An old tradition says the Baptist’s head was buried on the Mount of Olives and discovered on the site of the church by two Syrian monks in the 4th century.

Since 1907 the church has been in the custody of a community of Russian Orthodox nuns from a variety of nations. They are renowned for their singing and their icon-writing.

 

Chapel marks finding of John’s head

The Russian complex of the church and associated buildings, including a pilgrims’ hostel, is set among gardens with a large olive grove.

Access is from Rabi’a al-Adawwiyya Street (which begins directly opposite the entrance to the Church of Pater Noster) and along a lane on the right called Alley 7. To the left of a big green gate at the end of the lane is a door with a keypad to request entry.

Hollow in floor where John the Baptist's head is believed to have been found (Matanya - Wikimedia)

Hollow in floor where John the Baptist’s head is believed to have been found (Matanya – Wikimedia)

The cross-shaped church is surmounted by a dome containing a striking representation of the Ascension. Stains on flagstones from an earlier Byzantine church are believed to be the blood of nuns slain during the Persian invasion of 614.

Attached to an outside wall, protected by a grate, is a rock on which the Orthodox believe Mary, the mother of Jesus, was standing when her son ascended to heaven.

Behind the church is a chapel built on the site where the head of John the Baptist is said to have been found.

The tradition holds that a follower of Christ called Joanna saw Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, throw John’s head on a rubbish heap. Joanna recovered it and buried it in a clay pot on the Mount of Olives.

In the 4th century John is said to have appeared in a dream to two Syrian monks who had come to Jerusalem as pilgrims, showing them where his head was buried.

Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine, was in Jerusalem at the time and ordered a chapel to be built on the spot. The present chapel has a Byzantine mosaic floor with a hollow said to mark the place where the head was discovered.

Three other Ascension sites

Lutheran Church of the Ascension (Isaac Shweky / Wikimedia)

Lutheran Church of the Ascension (Isaac Shweky / Wikimedia)

The Ascension of Jesus is commemorated at three other sites on the Mount of Olives:

* The Dome of the Ascension, a small octagonal structure in a walled compound about 200 metres west of the Russian church. A church has stood here since around AD 380, but the present building is now part of a mosque.

* The Lutheran Church of the Ascension, further north towards Mount Scopus. Also known as Augusta Victoria (after the wife of the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany who initiated plans for the church in 1989), its fortress-like compound with a tall bell tower now hosts a hospital for the Palestinian population of Jerusalem.

* The Greek Orthodox Viri Galilaei Church, between the Russian and Lutheran churches. Its name means “men of Galilee”, a reference to the question posed to the apostles by two men in white after the Ascension: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven…?”

 

Related sites:

Dome of the Ascension

Sebastiya

 

In Scripture:

Jesus ascends to heaven: Acts 1:9-11

 

Administered by: Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem

Tel: 02-628-4373 or 628-0111

Open: Apr-Sep, Tues and Thur, 10am-1pm; Oct-Mar, Tues and Thur, 9am-12 noon. Women must wear skirts.

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Hilliard, Alison, and Bailey, Betty Jane: Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land (Cassell, 1999)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Rossing, Daniel: Between Heaven and Earth: Churches and Monasteries of the Holy Land (Penn Publishing, 2012)

 

Older Posts »

Tomb of Mary

Jerusalem

Tomb of Mary

Steps down to the Tomb of Mary (Seetheholyland.net)

The New Testament says nothing about the death and burial of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, but a strong Christian tradition places her tomb in a dimly-lit church at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

The large crypt containing the empty tomb in the Church of the Assumption is all that remains of an early 5th-century church, making it possibly the oldest near-complete religious building in Jerusalem.

The location of the Tomb of Mary is across the Kidron Valley from St Stephen’s Gate in the Old City walls of Jerusalem, just before Gethsemane.

The Church of the Assumption stands partly below the level of the main Jerusalem-Jericho road. It is reached by a stairway leading down to an open courtyard.

Entry is through the façade of a 12th-century Crusader basilica that has been preserved intact. To the right, a passageway leads to the Grotto of Gethsemane.

 

Tomb resembles Holy Sepulchre

Tomb of Mary

Petitions and prayers in the Tomb of Mary (Seetheholyland.net)

A wide Crusader stairway of nearly 50 steps leads to the crypt. Partway down, on the right, is a niche dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim. This small chapel was originally the burial place of Queen Melisande, daughter and wife of Crusader kings of Jerusalem, who died in 1161.

Almost opposite is a niche dedicated to Mary’s husband, St Joseph. Here three women connected to Crusader kings were buried.

The crypt, much of it cut into solid rock, is dark and gloomy. The smell of incense fills the air, the ceiling is blackened by centuries of candle smoke, and gold and silver lamps hang in profusion.

To the right, a small edicule houses a stone bench on which Mary’s body is believed to have lain. The edicule is richly decorated with Eastern Orthodox icons, candlesticks and flowers, but the interior is bare.

Narrow openings on two sides allow access, and three holes in the wall of the tomb enable pilgrims to touch the bench.

Because the emperor Constantine’s engineers cut away the surrounding rock to isolate the Tomb of Mary in the middle of the crypt, its appearance strongly resembles her Son’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Floods in 1972 enabled excavations by the archaeologist Bellarmino Bagatti, who concluded that the place where Mary had been buried was clearly located in a cemetery used during the first century.

 

Several denominations share site

The church belonged to the Catholic Franciscans from 1363 until 1757. When they were expelled it passed into the hands of the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Greek Orthodox Church now shares possession with the Armenian Orthodox. The Syriac Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox and the Ethiopian Orthodox have minor rights.

Muslims also worship here. In the wall to the right of the Tomb of Mary is a mihrab niche giving the direction of Mecca. It was installed after Saladin’s conquest in the 12th century.

The place is holy to Muslims because they believe Muhammad saw a light over the tomb of his “sister Mary” during his Night Journey to Jerusalem.

 

Early writers describe death and burial

Tomb of Mary

Icon of Mary’s death at the Tomb of Mary (Seetheholyland.net)

The New Testament may be silent on the end of Mary’s life, but several early apocryphal sources, such as Transitus Mariae, describe her death and burial in Jerusalem.

These works are of uncertain authenticity and not accepted as part of the Christian canon of Scripture.

But, according to biblical scholar Lino Cignelli, “All of them are traceable back to a single primitive document, a Judaeo-Christian prototype, clearly written within the mother church of Jerusalem some time during the second century, and, in all probability, composed for liturgical use right at the Tomb of Our Lady.

“From the earliest times, tradition has assigned the authorship of the prototype to one Lucius Carinus, said to have been a disciple and fellow labourer with St John the Evangelist.”

By the reckoning of Transitus Mariae, Mary would have been aged no more than 50 at the time of her death.

 

Ephesus claim not supported

A competing claim is made that the Virgin Mary died and was buried in the city of Ephesus, in present-day Turkey. This claim rests in part on the Gospel account that Christ on his cross entrusted the care of Mary to St John (who later went to Ephesus).

But the earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary’s life in Jerusalem, as the Catholic Encyclopedia recounts:

“The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the Acts of St John by Prochurus, written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary’s death.

“The two letters B. Inatii missa S. Joanni, written about 370, show that the Blessed Virgin passed the remainder of her days at Jerusalem. That of Dionysius the Areopagite to the Bishop Titus (363), the Joannis liber de Dormitione Mariae (third to fourth century), and the treatise De transitu B.M. Virginis (fourth century) place her tomb at Gethsemane . . . .

“There was never any tradition connecting Mary’s death and burial with the city of Ephesus.”

 

Assumption mentioned in early sources

The name of the Church of the Assumption reflects the Christian belief that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. This belief is mentioned in early apocryphal sources, as well as in authenticated sermons by Eastern saints such as St Andrew of Crete and St John of Damascus.

The Assumption of Mary has been a subject of Christian art for centuries (and its feast day was made a public holiday in England by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century). It was defined as a doctrine of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15, the same day that the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

 

Related site:

Church of the Dormition

Administered by: Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre

Tel.: 972-2-6284613

Open: 5am(6am Oct-Mar)-12 noon, 2.30–5pm

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Cignelli, Lino: “Our Lady’s Tomb in the Apocrypha”, Holy Land, spring 2005.
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)
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)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Mary’s Tomb (BibleWalks)
Mary’s Tomb (Christus Rex)
Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Older Posts »

Mount of Olives

Jerusalem

Mount of Olives

Church of St Mary Magdalene (left) and Church of Dominus Flevit on Mount of Olives (Seetheholyland.net)

The Mount of Olives, one of three hills on a long ridge to the east of Jerusalem, is the location of many biblical events. Rising to more than 800 metres, it offers an unrivalled vista of the Old City and its environs.

The hill, also called Mount Olivet, takes its name from the fact that it was once covered with olive trees.

In the Old Testament, King David fled over the Mount of Olives to escape when his son Absalom rebelled (2 Samuel 15:30).

After King Solomon turned away from God, he built pagan temples there for the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:7-8).

Ezekiel had a vision of “the glory of the Lord” ascending from the city and stopping on the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23).

Zechariah prophesied that in the final victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil, the Lord of hosts would “stand on the Mount of Olives” and the mount would be “split in two from east to west” (Zechariah 14:3-4).

 

Jesus knew it well

In the New Testament, Jesus often travelled over the Mount of Olives on the 40-minute walk from the Temple to Bethany. He also went there to pray or to rest.

He went down the mount on his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, on the way weeping over the city’s future destruction (Luke 19:29-44).

In a major address to his disciples on the mount, he foretold his Second Coming (Matthew 24:27-31).

He prayed there with his disciples the night before he was arrested (Matthew 26:30-56). And he ascended into heaven from there (Acts 1:1-12).

 

A place for pilgrims to sleep

Mount of Olives

Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives (Seetheholyland.net)

Until the destruction of the Temple, the Mount of Olives was a place where many Jews would sleep out, under the olive trees, during times of pilgrimage.

During the Siege of Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the city in AD 70, Roman soldiers from the 10th Legion camped on the mount.

In Jewish tradition, the Messiah will descend the Mount of Olives on Judgement Day and enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate (the blocked-up double gate in the centre of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, also known as the Gate of Mercy, or the Beautiful Gate).

For this reason, Jews have always sought to be buried on the slopes of the mount. The area serves as one of Jerusalem’s main cemeteries, with an estimated 150,000 graves.

Among them is a complex of catacombs called the Tombs of the Prophets. It is said to contain the graves of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who lived in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but the style of tombs belongs to a later time.

From Byzantine times the mount became a place of church-building. By the 6th century it had 24 churches, surrounded by monasteries containing large numbers of monks and nuns.

 

Several major pilgrimage sites

Mount of Olives

Church of All Nations on Mount of Olives (© Tom Callinan / Seetheholyland.net)

The Mount of Olives is the location of several major sites for pilgrims. They include:

• Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony): A sombre church at Gethsemane, built over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony the night before he was crucified.

• Church of St Mary Magdalene: A Russian Orthodox church whose seven gilded onion domes, each topped by a tall cross, make it one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque sights.

• Church of Dominus Flevit: A church in the shape of a teardrop, commemorating the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem.

• Church of Pater Noster: Recalling Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, this church features translations of the prayer in 140 languages, inscribed on colourful ceramic plaques.

• Dome of the Ascension: A small shrine, now a mosque marking the place where Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven.

The garden and grotto of Gethsemane: The ancient olive grove identified as the place where Jesus went to pray the night before he was crucified, and the cave where his disciples are believed to have slept.

• Tomb of Mary: A dimly-lit, below-ground church where a Christian tradition says the Mother of Jesus was buried.

Related sites:

Church of All Nations

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Church of Dominus Flevit

Church of Pater Noster

Church of the Ascension

Dome of the Ascension

Gethsemane

Tomb of Mary

 

In Scripture:

King David flees over the Mount of Olives: 2 Samuel 15:30

King Solomon builds pagan temples: 1 Kings 11:7-8

“Glory of the Lord” stops on Mount of Olives: Ezekiel 11:23

Splitting of mount prophesied: Zechariah 14:3-4

Jesus enters Jerusalem: Luke 19:29-44

Jesus foretells his Second Coming: Matthew 24:27-31

Jesus prays before his arrest: Matthew 26:30-56

Jesus ascends into heaven: Acts 1:1-12

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
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: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
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 Olives (BiblePlaces)
Mount of Olives (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum)
Older Posts »

Jerusalem

Israel

Jerusalem

Jerusalem at sunset from Mount of Olives (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Jerusalem is revered as a holy city by half the human race.

For Jews it is the city King David made the capital of his kingdom, and where the Temple stood, containing the Ark of the Covenant. For Christians, it is where Christ died, was buried and rose again, and the birthplace of the Church. The Jewish and Christian Bibles mention Jerusalem several hundred times.

For Muslims it is al-Quds (“the Holy”) because they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount during his Night Journey.

Set on the Judaean mountains of central Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded on three sides by steep valleys: The Hinnom on the south and west, the Kidron on the east. Its history lies in layers metres deep.

Its iconic symbol, the golden-roofed Dome of the Rock, stands on the Temple Mount, also identified as Mount Moriah, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

For modern pilgrims, this city of three faiths exerts a powerful pull, resonating with the Jewish Passover aspiration: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

 

Heritage of three faiths

Jerusalem

Market in the Old City (Seetheholyland.net)

The bustling modern city of Jerusalem, also faced with cream-toned limestone, has spread to the west and north of the Old City.

Modern Jerusalem is not a large city by international standards (its population in 2007 was 747,000, of whom 35,400 lived in the Old City). In the time of Christ its population was between 20,000 and 50,000.

It is a city with an intriguing blend of sights, sounds and smells, especially in the Arab markets of the Old City. The past and present continually rub shoulders. Church bells peal, muezzins call Muslims to prayer, and friars, rabbis and imams hasten by.

Reminders of the heritage of three faiths are never far away — Jerusalem has 1200 synagogues, more than 150 churches (representing 17 denominations) and more than 70 mosques.

The Israel Museum presents collections of arts and archaeology, including the Shrine of the Book containing Dead Sea Scrolls and an outdoor scale model of Jerusalem in AD 66. Exhibits in the Tower of David Museum depict 4000 years of history. The Yad Vashem complex documents the story of the victims of the Holocaust.

 

Old City has four quarters

At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, girded by a wall and divided into four “quarters” — named after the dominant ethnic or religious identity of its residents.

Its area is less than a square kilometre, about two-thirds the city’s size in the time of Christ. “Perched on its eternal hills, white and domed and solid, massed together and hooped with high gray walls, the venerable city gleamed in the sun. So small!” wrote Mark Twain in 1869, when settlements outside the walls had just begun to displace shepherds from the Judaean hills.

The Muslim Quarter, largest and most populous of the four, includes the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Other sites in the quarter include the Pools of Bethesda and part of the Via Dolorosa.

Jerusalem

Church of the Holy Sepulchre above roofs of the Old City (Seetheholyland.net)

The Christian Quarter contains the rest of the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which enshrines the sites of Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection. Headquarters of several Christian denominations are among the 40 religious buildings in the quarter.

The Jewish Quarter adjoins the Western Wall, the sole remnant of the Second Temple plaza, which is Judaism’s holiest place. This quarter is more modern, with sophisticated shopping plazas. Archaeological remains are on display in museums and parks.

The Armenian Quarter provides a reminder that Armenia was the first country to make Christianity the state religion (in 301). It contains the Armenian Orthodox Cathedral of St James and a museum in memory of the 1915-23 Armenian Holocaust.

 

Mount of Olives and Mount Zion

Outside the Old City, to the east is the Mount of Olives, where venerable olive trees still grow in the garden of Gethsemane, the scene of Jesus’ agony the night before he died.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue (Arielhorowitz / he.wikipedia)

The teardrop Church of Dominus Flevit commemorates the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s future fate.

The Church of Pater Noster recalls his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. The Dome of the Ascension, now a mosque, marks the place where he is believed to have ascended to heaven.

Southwest of the Old City is Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem.

Here is found the Cenacle, believed to be on the site of the Upper Room of the Last Supper. This is also regarded as the site of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Council of Jerusalem, where early Church leaders met around AD 50.

The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu marks Jesus’ appearance before the high priest Caiaphas, and the Church of the Dormition commemorates the “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary.

 

Conquered many times

Jerusalem

Dining out in modern Jerusalem (Seetheholyland.net)

The earliest reference to Jerusalem suggests that its name means “the foundation of [the Syrian god] Shalem”. A more common interpretation is “city of peace”, but peace has remained an elusive goal for most of the city’s history.

Down through the centuries, Jerusalem has been besieged, conquered and destroyed many times. Early settlers called Jebusites lived there around the Gihon Spring when David conquered it around 1000 BC and made it the capital of his kingdom.

During Old Testament times the conquerors included Babylonians (who destroyed the First Temple and exiled Jews to Babylon), Persians, Greeks, Syrians and Romans (who in AD 70 destroyed the Second Temple).

Since the Christian era began, Jerusalem has been ruled by the Roman Empire (first from Rome, then from Byzantium, now Istanbul), Persians, Arab Muslims, Crusaders, Muslims again, Egyptian Mamelukes, Ottoman Turks and, from 1917 to 1948, the British.

After the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned between Jordan and the new state of Israel. The Israelis gained control of the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and Old City during the 1967 Six Day War, but the status of Jerusalem remains a key issue in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

In Scripture:

Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac: Genesis 22:1-18

David makes Jerusalem his capital: 2 Samuel 5:4-10

Song of praise and prayer for Jerusalem: Psalm 122

Solomon builds the Temple: 1 Kings 5-6

Jesus enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus is crucified, buried and rises again: Matthew 27:66—28:10; Mark 15:47—16:8; Luke 23:26—24:12; John 19:16—20:10

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

The first Church Council at Jerusalem: Acts 15:1-29

The new Jerusalem: Revelation 21:1-4


References

Bowker, John: The Complete Bible Handbook (Dorling Kindersley, 1998)
Brisco, Thomas: Holman Bible Atlas (Broadman and Holman, 1998)
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)
McCormick, James R.: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Rhodes & Eaton, 1997)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Martin, James: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Westminster Press, 1978)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
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

The Jerusalem Insider’s Guide
Older Posts »

Dome of the Ascension

Jerusalem

Dome of the Ascension

Dome of the Ascension (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The shrine marking the place where Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven offers Christians a disappointing experience.

All that remains of the several churches built to celebrate the Ascension is a small octagonal structure on a property that is now part of a mosque.

Plain and unadorned, the Dome of the Ascension stands in a walled compound east of the main road that runs on the top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The location is just north of the Church of Pater Noster — which is built over a cave that the first Christians used as a more secluded place to commemorate the Ascension.

The last church on the site was captured by the Muslim sultan Saladin when he defeated the Crusaders in 1187. Since Muslims also believe in the Ascension of Jesus, it was converted into a mosque.

An unusual feature of the tiny building is that it contains what has been traditionally regarded as the last impression of Jesus’ right foot on earth before he ascended into heaven.

 

First church was open to the sky

Dome of the Ascension

Footprint stone in Dome of Ascension (Seetheholyland.net)

The first church on the hill was funded by Poemenia, a wealthy Roman woman who was a member of the imperial family, around AD 380.

Known as the Imbomon (Greek for “on the hill”), it was a rotunda, open to the sky, surrounded by circular porticos and arches. In the centre of the stone floor was a rock on which it was believed Jesus’ final footprints could be seen in the dust.

By 670 the original structure had been destroyed and rebuilt but the English pilgrim Arculf reported to his countrymen that the footprints were still to be seen in the dust of its floor.

In the 12th century the Crusaders rebuilt an octagonal chapel, set within a fortified monastery. From this strategic position on the crest of the Mount of Olives, the Crusaders controlled the road between Jericho and Jerusalem.

The footprints were still venerated, but now they were reported to be carved into the face of the rock.

Part of this rock remains today in the Dome of the Ascension, although the Muslims have moved it adjacent to a mihrab they inserted to indicate the direction of Mecca. They took the section bearing the left footprint to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, where it was placed behind the pulpit there.

 

Christian celebrations are allowed

Dome of the Ascension

Celebrating the Ascension at the Dome of the Ascension (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

The Muslims also walled in the open spaces between the columns and put a dome over the opening in the roof.

The ornately carved capitals on top of the columns are well preserved. The designs depict foliage and fabulous animals.

The various Christian communities are permitted to hold celebrations here on their Ascension feast days. Hooks in the courtyard wall are used to erect their awnings, ribbons and flags on these occasions.

To the right of the entrance to the Dome of the Ascension is a small mosque built in 1620.

An underground tomb near the entrance is revered by all three monotheistic religions, although they differ about its occupant. Jews believe it contains the Old Testament prophetess Huldah; Christians regard it as the grave of the 5th-century St Pelagia; Muslims maintain it is the tomb of the Sufi holy woman Rabi’a al-’Adawiyya (for whom the mosque is named).

 

Three more recent Ascension churches

Three more recent churches on the Mount of Olives commemorate the Ascension.

At the summit is the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, dating from the late 19th century. Its tall tower, one of Jerusalem’s most prominent landmarks, was built to enable pilgrims to see the Jordan River.

On the north side is the German Lutheran Church of the Ascension (also known as Augusta Victoria, after the wife of the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany who initiated plans for the church in 1898), dating from the early 20th century. Its fortress-like compound with a tall bell tower now hosts a hospital for the Palestinian population of Jerusalem.

Between the Russian and Lutheran churches is the Greek Orthodox Viri Galilaei Church. Its name means “men of Galilee”, a reference to the question posed to the apostles by two men in white after the Ascension: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven…?”

Related site: Church of the Ascension

 

In Scripture:

The Ascension of Jesus: Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:4-11

Administered by: Islamic Waqf Foundation

Open: Daily (if door is not open, ring the bell)

 

References

Bagatti, Bellarmino: “ ‘Footprints’ of the Saviour on the Mount of Olives”, Holy Land, winter 2005.
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)
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)
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

Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem (Sacred Destinations)
Chapel of Ascension (BibleWalks)
Chapel of the Ascension panorama (Jesus in Jerusalem)
Older Posts »

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Jerusalem

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Onion domes and ornate frontage of Church of St Mary Magdalene (Seetheholyland.net)

Seven gilded onion domes, each topped by a tall Russian Orthodox cross, make the Church of St Mary Magdalene one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque sights.

It makes an especially striking spectacle at night, when its floodlit domes seem to be floating above the dark trees that surround it.

The church stands on the western slope of the Mount of Olives, above the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. It commemorates the enigmatic Mary from Magdala  — revered as a saint by the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches — who was one of the few persons named in the Gospels as being present at Christ’s crucifixion and who was the first recorded witness of his Resurrection.

In its convent live about 30 Russian Orthodox nuns from several different countries. While particularly known for the quality of their liturgical singing, they also paint icons, embroider vestments and items for liturgical use, and decorate Russian eggs.

 

Design reflects Muscovite architecture

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Medallion above door of Church of St Mary Magdalene (© Deror Avi)

The Church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1888 by Czar Alexander III of Russia, in memory of his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, whose patron saint was Mary Magdalene.

Its onion-shaped domes and the general style reflect the architecture of Moscow during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Although the intricately decorated façade appears to be made of marble, it is actually of sculpted white sandstone.

Above the entrance a circular blue mosaic depicts Mary Magdalene, the first recorded witness of the Resurrection, robed in white.

 

Painting illustrates Mary Magdalene legend

In contrast to the exterior, the interior of the Church of St Mary Magdalene is rather plain. The walls are covered with designs, predominantly in shades of brown.The white marble and bronze iconostasis — the partition that separates the nave from the sanctuary — holds icons and paintings, including depictions of the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel.

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Inside Church of St Mary Magdalene (© Deror Avi)

Above the iconostasis, a large canvas by Russian artist Sergei Ivanov illustrates a popular legend in which Mary Magdalene travels to Rome to tell the Emperor Tiberius of Jesus’ unfair trial and unjust sentence. She is shown presenting the emperor with a red egg, symbolising the Resurrection and eternal life.

To the right side of the iconostasis, a 16th-century icon of the Virgin Mary in a hand-carved wooden case has a place of honour. The icon is said to have miraculous powers.

 

Two Russian saints are buried

On either side of the nave is a marble sarcophagus, each containing the body of a Russian Orthodox saint.

The better known one is Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. A German princess, she was the wife of the Czar’s brother Sergei, a sister of the Czar’s wife Alexandra — and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

The grand duchess took a deep personal interest in the church and was responsible for commissioning its art works.

Widowed when an assassin killed her husband in 1905, she founded a convent and became its abbess. She and her nuns did much to help alleviate the suffering of the poor in Moscow.

After the Russian Revolution, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, her companion Sister Barbara Yakovleva and other members of the Russian imperial family were thrown down a mine shaft by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and left to die.

The bodies of Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Sister Barbara (whose remains are in the other sarcophagus) were eventually smuggled out of Russia and brought to Jerusalem. Both women have been canonised as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In a crypt below the church is buried Princess Alice of Greece, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. She had expressed a wish to be buried near Grand Duchess Elizabeth, who was her aunt.

In Scripture:

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: John 20:1-18

Administered by: Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem

Tel.: 972-2-6284373

Open: Tuesday and Thursday, 10am-noon

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
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)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Convent of St Mary Magdalene — the Garden of Gethsemane
Older Posts »

Church of Pater Noster

Jerusalem

Church of the Pater Noster

Church of Pater Noster (Seetheholyland.net)

At the Church of Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives, Christians recall Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples.

On walls around the church and its vaulted cloister, translations of the Lord’s Prayer in 140 languages are inscribed on colourful ceramic plaques.

A giftshop sells postcards of each plaque and the associated Convent of Pater Noster website offers translations in more than 1440 languages and dialects.

A long tradition holds that Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father in the cave that forms the grotto under the church. When the Crusaders built a church here in the 12th century, they called it Pater Noster (Latin for Our Father).

Pilgrims of the time reported seeing the words of the prayer inscribed in Hebrew and Greek on marble plaques. Excavations have uncovered a Latin version.

 

Cave is associated with several teachings

Church of Pater Noster

Cloister with plaques of the Lord’s Prayer at Church of Pater Noster (Seetheholyland.net)

The Gospels suggest that Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer at least twice. Matthew 6:5-15 has this teaching as part of the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee; Luke 11:1-4 has it while Jesus is on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem.

The cave under the Pater Noster Church certainly existed in Jesus’ time. Near the summit of the mount, it would have been a secluded and sheltered place for a small group to gather.

The earliest reference to Jesus teaching in the cave is in the apocryphal Acts of John, dating from the 2nd century, but it does not specifically mention the Lord’s Prayer.

Later the Christian bishop and historian Eusebius (260-339) wrote that “in that cave the Saviour of the Universe initiated the members of his guild in ineffable mysteries”.

When the Emperor Constantine built a three-level church on the site in 330, it commemorated the Ascension of Christ. This historic church was known simply as the Eleona (from the Greek word meaning “of olives”).

The cave is also believed to be associated with Jesus’ teaching about the destruction of Jerusalem and his Second Coming (Matthew 24,25).

A princess built the church

The present church and its cloister were completed in 1874 by an Italian woman who was the widow of a French prince.

Church of Pater Noster

Tomb of the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne in Church of Pater Noster (James Emery)

Aurélie de Bossi, the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne, had a particular devotion to the Lord’s Prayer. She erected translations of the prayer in 39 different languages.

Later she added a convent for Carmelite Sisters. While the buildings were being constructed, she lived nearby in a wooden cabin brought from France.

The princess was also keenly interested in the cave — which she never discovered, although she suggested where it might be.

Excavations by archaeologists in 1911 found the cave exactly where she had predicted it to be. It was partly collapsed when it was discovered.

The princess died in Florence in 1889, but her last wish was for her remains to rest in the Pater Noster Church, in a tomb which she had prepared. Her wish was fulfilled in 1957. On top of her sarcophagus is a life-size effigy.

 

New church was abandoned

Pater Noster Church is a part-reconstruction of Constantine’s Eleona church. Built to the same dimensions, it gives a good idea of what that original Byzantine basilica looked like. The garden outside the three doors outlines the atrium area.

In 1920 construction began on a new Church of the Sacred Heart over the grotto. Work was abandoned in 1927 when funds ran out, leaving the base and walls open to the sky.

Steps below the altar platform lead down to the crypt of the 4th-century basilica, partially built in the cave. But only a little of the stonework remains of that original church.

A 1st-century tomb, which Constantine’s engineers had blocked up with masonry, can now be seen.

 

In Scripture:

Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:7-14; Luke 11:1-4

Jesus foretells his Second Coming: Matthew 24,25

 

Administered by: Carmelite Sisters

Tel.: 972-2-6264904

Open: 8am-noon, 2-5pm (Sunday closed).

 

 

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)
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
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)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Convent of Pater Noster (Christus Rex)
The Lord’s Prayer (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Church of Pater Noster panoramas (Jesus in Jerusalem)
Older Posts »

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)
Older Posts »

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)
Older Posts »

Bethphage

Jerusalem

The village of Bethphage is remembered as the starting point of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the day that is commemorated as Palm Sunday.

Bethphage

Panorama of modern Bethphage (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

The exact location of the village, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and close to Bethany, is uncertain.

Bethphage was considered the outermost reach of the city of Jerusalem, the limit of a Sabbath-day’s journey (900 metres) from the city, and the furthest point at which bread could be baked for use in the Temple.

The name in Hebrew means “House of unripe figs” — recalling that in this area Jesus caused a fig tree with no fruit to wither (Matthew 21:18-22).

The memory of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is kept in a Franciscan church built beside the steep road that descends from the Mount of Olives eastwards towards the village of El-Azariyeh (ancient Bethany) and the Jerusalem-Jericho highway.

This is where the annual Palm Sunday walk into Jerusalem begins — a tradition begun during Crusader times.

Disciples saw a prophecy fulfilled

Bethphage

Palm Sunday procession from Bethphage on the Mount of Olives (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

As the Gospels record, Jesus sent two of his disciples to find a donkey and her colt, and he rode into Jerusalem while crowds spread their cloaks and branches on the road, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Recalling the sight of their master riding a beast of burden, the disciples saw the fulfilment of a prophecy by Zechariah more than 500 years before: “Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

It was on his way to Jerusalem that Jesus stopped on the summit of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the panorama of the Temple, towers and palaces, and wept over the city as he predicted its impending destruction only 40 years in the future.

 

‘Mounting-block’ is queried

Above the altar in the church is a mural of Jesus riding the donkey and receiving the acclaim of crowds.

Bethphage

Jesus on the donkey, a mural in the Franciscan church (Seetheholyland.net)

On display in the church, protected by a wrought iron grille, is a large square rock that the Crusaders regarded as the mounting-block Jesus used to mount the donkey.

Biblical scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor is sceptical, suggesting the Crusaders forgot that “a Palestinian donkey was in no way comparable to their huge battle-chargers”.

On the sides of the rock are medieval paintings, restored in 1950. These depict the disciples collecting the donkey and colt; people holding palm branches; the resurrection of Lazarus at nearby Bethany; and the inscription “Bethphage”.

Just up the hill is a Greek Orthodox church whose courtyard offers a view and a place for reflection.

 

In Scripture

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11

Administered by:

Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-6284352

Open: Apr-Sep 8am-noon, 2-5pm, Oct-Mar 8am-noon, 2-4.30pm

 

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: 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)
Older Posts »
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