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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 (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Dominus Flevit panorama (Jerusalem360.com)

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)

External link

Bethphage (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
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