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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Schindler’s grave

Jerusalem

 

Schindler's grave

Oskar Schindler’s grave (Seetheholyland.net)

One of the most-visited graves in Jerusalem belongs to Oskar Schindler, the German factory-owner and Nazi Party member credited with saving the lives of 1098 Jews during the Second World War.

His grave in the Catholic cemetery on the southern slope of Mount Zion is visited by Jews, Christians and people of no religious faith.

A complex and conflicted man, Schindler was an unlikely candidate for heroism that involved risking his life to save others.

Born into a Catholic family in Moravia, he was unfaithful to his wife with a succession of mistresses. As a businessman he engaged in black-market dealings and bribery. An ethnic German but a Czech citizen, he worked as a counterintelligence agent for the Nazi armed forces (for which he was jailed by Czechoslovakia) and also collaborated in the German strategy for the invasion of Poland.

Ironically, Schindler’s less endearing character traits equipped him to ingratiate himself with Nazi officials for the sake of his Jewish employees.

 

At least nine lists were drawn up

Schindler's grave

Oskar Schindler in 1947 (Freeinfosociety.com)

After Germany occupied Poland in 1939, the opportunistic Schindler moved to the Polish city of Krakow and took over a Jewish-owned enamelware factory.

Because the factory was close to the Jewish ghetto he was able to witness the brutal German oppression at firsthand. “And then a thinking man, who had overcome his inner cowardice, simply had to help. There was no other choice,” he said after the war.

Schindler built up his workforce with Jewish forced labourers from the Plaszow labour camp, bribing officials to ensure their wellbeing. He and his wife Emilie especially cared for those who were old or weak.

Schindler's grave

Part of Schindler’s Krakow factory in 2009 (Jongleur100 / Wikimedia)

In 1944, when the inmates of Plaszow were destined for deportation to death camps such as Auschwitz, Schindler obtained approval (after paying the necessary bribes) to move his factory to Brünnlitz in Czechoslovakia, on the pretext of making armaments.

The names of the workers chosen to move to the new factory formed the “list” made famous in Thomas Keneally’s 1982 Booker Prize-winning novel Schindler’s Ark and Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award-winning movie Schindler’s List.

In fact, according to Schindler’s definitive biographer David M. Crowe, at least nine lists, constantly changing, were drawn up in late 1944 and 1945, and they were drawn up by other people — although Schindler had given guidelines as to who he wanted included. However, without Schindler’s efforts there would have been no Jewish workers to be listed.

 

Declared Righteous Among the Nations

Schindler's grave

Schindler’s Brünnlitz factory in 2004 (Miaow Miaow / Wikimedia)

By the time the war ended, Schindler’s considerable wealth had been spent on bribes and black-market supplies for his workers and he was reduced to receiving handouts from Jewish organisations.

In 1949 he emigrated to Argentina with his long-suffering wife, his current mistress and some Jewish friends. After a farming venture failed he returned alone to Germany and established a cement factory that went bankrupt.

In the 1960s he began annual visits to Israel, where he was feted as a hero, but he was in poverty when he died in 1974, aged 66, in Hildesheim, Germany. It was his own wish to be buried in Jerusalem.

Schindler's grave

Emilie and Oskar Schindler in 1946 (Wikimedia)

Emilie Schindler remained in Argentina, living on a pension. She died in 2001 during a visit to Berlin, aged 94.

In 1962 a tree was planted in Oskar Schindler’s honour in the Avenue of the Righteous at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. But it was not until 1993 that both Oskar and Emilie were officially recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

 

Visitors leave stones on grave

Schindler’s grave in the Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery — not the Protestant Cemetery further west, as some guidebooks have it — is within easy walking distance of the Old City’s Zion Gate.

Schindler's grave

Entrance to Mount Zion Catholic Cemetery (Yoninah / Wikimedia)

Walk out Zion Gate towards the bus parking lot. Take the road on the left until it joins a major road called Ma’aleh Hashalom. Follow this road down the slope of Mount Zion until you come to a high stone wall on the left with a wrought-iron gate. High on the gate is small sign reading “To Oskar Schindler’s Grave”.

For times when the cemetery is closed, the Muslim custodian’s phone number is painted roughly on the gate.

The cemetery is on two levels, with circular steps leading down to the lower level where Schindler is buried. Many of the graves are of Franciscan monks and nuns. Others, as their Arabic inscriptions indicate, belong to Arab Catholic families whose family trees date back hundreds of years.

At the edge of the top level stands a large cross. Facing the cross, look down on the lower level at about 2 o’clock. The flat slab of Schindler’s last resting place stands out from the other graves because of the stones left on it by visitors — a Jewish custom that is also followed by many others who come to pay their respects.

The stones often partly cover the inscriptions, which read (in Hebrew) “Righteous Among the Nations” and (in German) “The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews”.

 

Open: Usually 8-12am (closed Sunday)

Tel.: 0525-388342

 

 

References

Burkeman, Oliver, and Aris, Ben: “Biographer Takes Shine off Spielberg’s Schindler”, The Guardian, November 25, 2004
Crowe, David M.: Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of his Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List (Westview Press, 2004)
Keneally, Thomas: Schindler’s Ark (Hodder and Stoughton, 1982)
Rubenstein, Danny: “A Sign Points to the Grave”, Haaretz, July 19, 2007
Smith, Dinitia: “A Scholar’s Book Adds Layers of Comploexity to the Schindler Legend”, The New York Times, November 24, 2004

 

External links

Oscar Schindler (Louis Bülow)
Oskar Schindler (Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team)
Oskar Schindler (Encyclopedia of World Biography)
Oskar Schindler (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
The Real Oskar Schindler (Herbert Steinhouse)

 

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)

Mount Zion

Jerusalem

Mount Zion

Mount Zion, crowned by the Dormition Abbey (© Deror Avi)

Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is the broad hill south of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter.

Also called Sion, its name in Old Testament times became projected into a metaphoric symbol for the whole city and the Promised Land.

Several important events in the early Christian Church are likely to have taken place on Mount Zion:

• The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, both believed to have been on the site of the Cenacle;

• The appearance of Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas, believed to have been at the site of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu;

• The “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary, believed to have occurred at the site of the Church of the Dormition.

• The Council of Jerusalem, around AD 50, in which the early Church debated the status of converted gentiles (Acts 15:1-29), perhaps also on the site of the Cenacle.

The mountain that moved

In the Old Testament period, Zion was the eastern fortress that King David captured from the Jebusites and named the City of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9).

A psalmist described Mount Zion as God’s “holy mountain, beautiful in elevation . . . the joy of all the earth” (Psalm 48).

And again, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125).

Ironically, by the time this psalm was composed, the name of Mount Zion had already moved from its original location at the Jebusite fortress — and would move again.

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

 

Early Christians built synagogue-church

Mount Zion

Hagia Sion sign at Dormition Abbey (Glenn Johnson / Wikimedia)

In the time of Christ, Mount Zion was a wealthy neighbourhood, densely populated and enclosed within the city walls.

There was also a community of Essenes, a group who lived a strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. They are better known for their community at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

The first-century Christians met on Mount Zion, where they built a Judaeo-Christian synagogue-church that became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Over the centuries a succession of churches were built on the site and later destroyed. These included the great Byzantine basilica Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), known as the “Mother of all Churches” — which covered the entire area now occupied by the Church of the Dormition, the Cenacle and the Tomb of David.

 

David’s tomb is empty

The Old Testament (1 Kings: 2:10) records that King David was buried in the city of David, which was on the original Mount Zion.

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

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

Because the name of Mount Zion had moved to its present location, as described above, Christian pilgrims in the 10th century developed a belief that David’s burial place was there too.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present memorial on Mount Zion called the Tomb of King David. However, three of the walls of the room where its empty cenotaph stands are apparently from the synagogue-church used by the first-century Judaeo-Christians.

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

 

Architects beheaded for excluding Mount Zion

The respect with which Muslims held King David is illustrated by a legend relating to the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls by the Turkish conqueror Sulieman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century.

As the story goes, the sultan was furious when he discovered that the new walls did not encompass Mount Zion, leaving the Tomb of David unprotected.

He summoned the two architects responsible for the project and ordered that they be beheaded. Two graves in the inner courtyard of Jaffa Gate are said to be those of the architects.

Another place of interest on Mount Zion is the grave of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved nearly 1200 Jews in the Holocaust and has been declared a Righteous Gentile. The grave is in the Catholic cemetery near Zion Gate.

Related sites

Cenacle

Church of the Dormition

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Tomb of King David

Schindler’s grave

 

In Scripture:

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

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

Jesus appears before Caiaphas: Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-14, 19:24

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

 

 

 

References

Anonymous: “Christian Mount Sion”, Holy Land, spring 2003
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)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: “Church of Apostles found on Mt Zion” (Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1990)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Christian Mount Sion (Franciscan Cyberspot)
Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)

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

Church of the Dormition

Jerusalem

Church of the Dormition

Dome of Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

The hill of Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is dominated by the Church of the Dormition. The location is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died — or “fell asleep”, as the name suggests.

The fortress-like building, with a conical roof and four corner towers, stands south of the Old City’s Zion Gate. Nearby soars the bell tower of the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (formerly the Abbey of the Dormition), a Benedictine monastery.

During the Byzantine period, the Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), one of the three earliest churches in Jerusalem, stood on this site. Built by the Emperor Constantine, it was regarded as the Mother of all Churches. In AD 614 it was destroyed by the Persians.

 

Claims made for two cities

Two cities, Jerusalem and Ephesus (in present-day Turkey), claim to be the place where the Virgin Mary died. The Ephesus 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).

Church of the Dormition

Apostles at the death of Mary, in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

But the earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary’s life in Jerusalem, where the Tomb of Mary is venerated at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Accounts of Mary’s death in Jerusalem appear in early sources such as De Orbitu S. Dominae, Transitus Mariae and Liber Requiei Mariae. These books are described as apocryphal (meaning “hidden” or “secret”). Their authenticity is uncertain and they are 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.

 

Early writers favour Jerusalem

The early sources are summarised in this way by the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“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.”

 

Belief in the Assumption

The belief that the Virgin Mary was bodily assumed into heaven is mentioned in the above books and also 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.

St John of Damascus describes the origin of this belief in these words:

“St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon [AD 451], made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas [who arrived late], was found empty; wherefrom the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”

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 and some Protestant churches celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

 

Land was given by sultan

Church of the Dormition

Mary and Jesus mosaic in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

The land on which the Church of the Dormition stands was given in 1898 by the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who presented it to the Catholic Church. Construction was completed in 1910.

Like the Crusader church that preceded it, the basilica is built on two levels with the high altar and monastic choir on the upper of these, and the crypt with its Marian shrine on the lower.

Light from several large windows pours into the upper level, and colourful wall mosaics depict events from Christian and Benedictine history.

High above the main altar is a mosaic of Mary and the infant Jesus. The Latin inscription below it is from Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Life-size statue of Mary in death

Church of the Dormition

Lifesize image of Mary in death, in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

If the upper floor of the Church of the Dormition is luminous, the circular crypt seems totally shrouded when first entered.

In the centre, under a rotunda, is a simple bier on which rests a life-size statue of Mary, fallen asleep in death. The statue is made of cherry wood and ivory.

The dome above the statue is adorned with mosaic pictures of six women of the Old Testament: Eve, Miriam, Jael, Judith, Ruth and Esther.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the church was seriously damaged by military bombardment. During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces took possession of the building and the Mother and Child mosaic in the apse received a barrage of machine-gun bullets from the interior of the church.

The Dormition Church has a fine organ, which is often used for concerts.

Related site:

Tomb of Mary

 

Administered by: Benedictine Order

Tel.: 972-2-5655330

Open: Mon-Fri 8.30-11.45am, 12.40-5.30pm; Sat 8.30-11.45am, 12.40-2.45pm, 3.30-5.30pm; Sun 10.30-11.45am, 12.30-5.30pm

 

References

 

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Maas, Anthony: “The Blessed Virgin Mary”, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1912).
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Petrozzi, Maria Tereza: “The Place of Mary’s Dormition”, Holy Land, spring 2005
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (Dormition Abbey)
Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Jerusalem

 

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu (Seetheholyland.net)

One of the most striking churches in Jerusalem commemorates the apostle Peter’s triple denial of his Master, his immediate repentance and his reconciliation with Christ after the Resurrection.

Built on an almost sheer hillside, the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu stands on the eastern slope of Mount Zion.

On its roof rises a golden rooster atop a black cross — recalling Christ’s prophesy that Peter would deny him three times “before the cock crows”. Galli-cantu means cockcrow in Latin.

Peter’s denial of Christ is recorded in all four Gospels (most succinctly in Matthew 26:69-75). Three of the Gospels also record his bitter tears of remorse.

The scene of Peter’s disgrace was the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas. The Assumptionist congregation, which built St Peter in Gallicantu over the ruins of a Byzantine basilica, believes it stands on the site of the high priest’s house.

Under the church is a dungeon thought to be the cell where Jesus was detained for the night following his arrest.

 

Blend of contemporary and ancient art

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

St Peter denies Christ, outside the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu is built on four different levels — upper church, middle church, guardroom and dungeon. Its design and art are a colourful blend of contemporary and ancient works.

In the courtyard a statue depicts the denial, including the rooster, the woman who questioned Peter, and a Roman soldier.

Inside, on the right, are two Byzantine-era mosaics. Uncovered during excavation, they were most likely part of the floor of the fifth-century Byzantine church.

The ceiling is a striking feature. It is dominated by a huge cross-shaped window designed in a radiant variety of colours.

Three large mosaics cover the back wall and two side walls. Facing the entrance is a bound Jesus being questioned in the house of Caiaphas; on the right, Jesus and the disciples are shown at the Last Supper; on the left, Peter is depicted in ancient papal dress as the first pope.

Downstairs, in the middle church, icons above the altars depict St Peter’s denial, his repentance and his reconciliation with his Master on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection.

Many of the inscriptions in the church are in French, since the Assumptionists are a French religious order.

 

Guardroom and prisoner’s cell

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Pilgrims praying in the Sacred Pit under the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu (Seetheholyland.net)

The lower levels of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu contain what are believed to have been a guardroom and a prisoner’s cell, both hewn out of bedrock.

• The guardroom contains wall fixtures to attach prisoners’ chains. Holes in the stone pillars would have been used to fasten a prisoner’s hands and feet when he was flogged. Bowls carved in the floor are believed to have contained salt and vinegar, either to aggravate the pain or to disinfect the wounds.

Jesus, of course, was not flogged by the Jews but by the Romans. But some of his disciples, probably including Peter, were flogged by order of the Jewish council after the Resurrection for teaching in the name of Jesus in the Temple (Acts 5:40).

• The prisoner’s cell offers a sobering insight into where Christ might have spent the night before he was crucified. It has become known as “Christ’s Prison”.

The only access to the bottle-necked cell was through a shaft from above, so the prisoner would have been lowered and raised by means of a rope harness. A mosaic depicting Jesus in such a harness is outside on the south wall of the church.

A small window from the guardroom served as a peephole for a guard standing on a stone block.

 

Disagreement over house of Caiaphas

Though pilgrims’ reports back as far as AD 333 attest to this place being the site of the house of Caiaphas, archaeologists are divided.

Some favour an alternative site for the high priest’s house at the Armenian Orthodox Church of the House of Caiaphas on the summit of Mount Zion, adjacent to the Dormition Abbey.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor considers it “much more likely that the house of the high priest was at the top of the hill”.

Bargil Pixner, a former prior of the Dormition Abbey, disagrees, saying “this late and astonishing theory originated at the time of the Crusaders and is quite improbable”.

Excavations at St Peter in Gallicantu have revealed a water cistern, corn mill, storage chambers and servants’ quarters.

Artefacts discovered include a complete set of weights and measures for liquids and solids as used by the priests in the Temple, and a door lintel with the word “Korban” (sacrificial offering) inscribed in Hebrew.

Steps that Jesus trod

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Steps leading to the House of Caiphas (Seetheholyland.net)

Beside the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, excavations have brought to light a stepped street which in ancient times would have descended from Mount Zion to the Kidron Valley.

These stone steps were certainly in use at the time of Christ. On the evening of his arrest, he probably descended them with his disciples on their way from the Last Supper to Gethsemane.

And, even if the House of Caiphas was situated further up Mount Zion than the present church, it would have been by this route that Jesus was brought under guard to the high priest’s house.

The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu illustrates the tumultuous history of religious sites in the Holy Land: A major church built here in 457 was damaged in 529 during the Samaritan Revolt and destroyed in 614 by the Persians. It was rebuilt around 628 and destroyed in 1009 by the mad Caliph Hakim. Rebuilt around 1100 by the Crusaders, it was destroyed in 1219 by the Turks. Then a chapel was built, but it was destroyed around 1300. The present church was completed in 1932.

In Scripture:

Peter denies Jesus: Matthew 26:69-75

Administered by: Augustinians of the Assumption

Tel.: 972-2-6731739

Open: 8.30am-5pm (closed Sunday)

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
McCormick, James R.: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Rhodes & Eaton, 1997)
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)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus in Jerusalem – his First and Last Days in Judea (Corazin Publishing, 1996)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu (Christus Rex)
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