The Armenian Patriarchate St 9, Jerusalem
What a lovely day it is here in Jerusalem! We are currently standing in between the Christian Information Center and the Tower of David. The Christian Information Center’s goal is to provide as much information as possible on the Christian religion and all of the holy sites, shrines, and churches, as well as the many aspects of the religious life and activities here in the Holy Land of Jerusalem. There are many employees here that can happily answer any of your questions, big or small. They are open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 3:00pm.
On your left is the Tower of David, Jerusalem’s citadel. The Tower of David is Jerusalem’s museum that lives within the ancient walls of the citadel that once protected the city many centuries ago. The museum teaches us about the history of Jerusalem and its ties to all major religions located here-Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Hundreds of thousands visit this museum every year to not only tour the fantastic museum, but to also participate in educational programs such as workshops, lectures, and cultural events. If you are interested in touring the museum you will get the chance to witness many different exhibitions such as contemporary art and design, an archaeological garden with artifacts from over 2,800 years ago and so much more.
We now will continue our journey through Jerusalem and highlighting some of the most important and influential sites for Christianity. Please follow the directions as we will make our way to an incredible church.
5 Via dolorosa, Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection, is one of the most important sites to Christianity in the entire world. This is where it is believed Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Near the entrance of the church there is a large slab of stone to commemorate the location where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. This stone goes by the name of the Stone of Anointing, and Pilgrims often touch or kiss it as a sign of devotion and respect. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a significant pilgrimage destination for Christians, thousands of pilgrims visit every year to treasure this church as well as walk the Via Dolorosa, something we will also be doing later in this tour.
Its humble exterior almost blends into its surroundings. What you see is a wooden door within a stone facade, yet it is one of the most influential Christian sites ever. It was originally built in the 4th century by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who legalized Christianity. His mother, Saint Helena, is said to have discovered the True Cross at this very spot.
The church is now under shared custody with many Christian denominations. The custodians are the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox Churches. With this in mind, the church operates under the agreement of the “Status Quo”. This means that any changes or modifications to the church must be agreed upon by every one of those custodians.
Within the church, lies the Aedicule. This is a small shrine where the marble tomb of Jesus Christ is believed to have been buried and resurrected. You may visit the Aedicule to pray and pay your respects to the Holy Sepulchre. There is also the Calvary, or Golgotha, where it is said to be the location of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a sacred space for all that is holy in the Christian religion. Here you can learn, as well as witness the traditions that began here and continue to thrive to this day.
Beit HaBad St 77, Jerusalem
We will now make our way down and around the corner. Our main goal at the moment is to head towards Via Dolorosa Street, but there are also just a couple places to mention along the way.
5 Via dolorosa, Jerusalem
On your right is Jesus Holyland Church and on your left is Via Dolorosa Church. Two smaller churches, but are locations where Christians from all over the world come to pray. You might not find anything on google about these places as they are not exactly the most touristy spots in the city, but that does not mean they are not worth checking out. So many places in this area hold so much history, just by stopping by and looking around you may learn something or even have a conversation with someone you would have never had elsewhere.
Via Dolorosa St 36, Jerusalem
Al-Wad St 22, Jerusalem
We are currently standing on the street of Via Dolorosa, or the “Way of Suffering”, or the “Way of the Cross” as it is traditionally believed to be the path Jesus Christ walked on his way to his crucifixion. It begins near the Lions’ gate in the eastern part of Jerusalem and makes its way down to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we have already passed through. Along this path there are 14 stations known as the Stations of the Cross that mark events in the Passion of Christ. A few examples are Station 1 when Jesus was condemned to death, Station 11 when Jesus is nailed to the cross, and Station 14 when Jesus was laid in the tomb. These stations are very important to the pilgrims that come here, especially during Holy Week.
The Via Dolorosa can become heavily crowded with pilgrims and tourists alike. You often will see pilgrims engage in acts of veneration, such as kissing or touching the stations, or even leaving tokens of appreciation along the way. Praying or meditating may also be taking place on the Way of Suffering to reflect on the events that had once occurred. Even if you are not a pilgrim, walking along this path will teach you much more about the culture and religious practices within Jerusalem’s city walls. This is a diverse section of the city, where many interfaith exchanges can happen. It is a lovely sight to see many converse with different backgrounds communicating.
As you walk I’m sure you will come across these stations, feel free to stop and read them or even take a minute to meditate. You are truly in a very special place to do this.
Q6JM+5F8, Lion's Gate St, Jerusalem
To our left is a Franciscan monastery that stands at the second station, which is when Jesus takes up his cross. Both the Church of the Condemnation and the Church of Flagellation are a part of this monastery, as well as part of Jesus' path on Via Dolorosa.
The Church of the Condemnation is associated with Jesus Christ’s trial and condemnation, and the Church of Flagellation is believed to be the location where he took up his cross after being sentenced to crucifixion, and where Jesus was flogged by Roman soldiers before he made his journey along Via Doloras to his tomb. This began when Roman flagstones were discovered beneath a church nearby, and thought to be the pavement during the time when Pontius Pilate held his judgment of Jesus.
The Church of Flagellation was originally built by the Crusaders during the Ottoman period, but was completely reconstructed in the late 1920s to in the style of the 12th century, whereas the Church of the Condemnation was built during the Byzantine era before being converted into a church in 1904. There are five white domes atop the Church of the Condemnation all covered with stained glass windows depicting themes from the Passion of Christ.
These locations are important sites along the Via Dolorosa path, and for the individuals searching and learning about the Christian faith.
Lion's Gate St 22, Jerusalem
Named after the mother of the Virgin Mary, therefore the grandmother of Jesus Christ, St Anne’s Church is dedicated to her memory. It is believed the church is built on the same ground of the Virgin Mary’s childhood home that once stood many years ago. It was constructed around the time of 1131, but has gone through multiple renovations and architects in its lifetime. In 1873, the architect at that time had discovered the vestiges of the Bethesda Pool next to the St Anne’s Church.
With cross-vaulted ceilings and pillars, and a quite simple interior, the church stands as a prime example of Romanesque architecture. Inside the church there are a few different religious scenes depicted such as the Nativity and the Annunciation. Below the church into the crypt is thought to be Mary’s birthplace and an altar exists there to respect and honor her.
The church is also known for its outstanding acoustics, but is known to be the kindest to the Gregorian chant, making it an ideal pilgrimage location.
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
The Tomb of the Virgin is believed to be the burial place of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother. The tomb sits in the Kidron Valley, at the base of Mount of Olives, another location where we will be making our way toward. In the Christian religion, it is said that the Virgin Mary died in Jerusalem or Ephesus, Turkey, and her body was later assumed into heaven. This is now called the Assumption of Mary. Although her body was assumed into heaven, her tomb remained here on earth, where we now stand. The Assumption of Mary is not accepted by all sectors of Christianity, only some of the denominations follow and practice such belief.
Regardless, the Tomb of the Virgin is a common Christian pilgrimage location. It is a holy site where pilgrims come to pay their respects and honor the Virgin Mary. They will pray or meditate, and many may leave flowers or lights for her.
The tomb sits in the Church of the Sepulchre of Mary. A 5th century church, considered one of the oldest in all of Jerusalem. It has been reconstructed many times since then, but during the Crusader period in the 12th century was its most recent rebuild that you see today. The more modern church resides on the upper level, where if you take the forty seven steps down, this leads you to the older church below. As you walk down those steps, you will see one chapel on the left as the chapel of Joseph, and on the right is the chapel of Mary’s parents, Hannah and Joachim.
An outstanding piece of history, religious and cultural, the Tomb of the Virgin Mary has stood the test of time and lies as an important aspect of Jerusalem and Christianity as well.
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
The garden that stands in front of you is the Garden of Gethsemane. In Christianity, the Garden of Gethsemane is an impactful and holy place for a handful of reasons. In the Bible this was a more than ideal place for Jesus and his disciples to visit for prayer and fellowship. Nestled under the many olive trees, it is an escape from the constant and hyperactive city of Jerusalem. It was and still is a quiet place to serve those who also have the desire to escape. It is said that the Garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus spent his final hours before being tried and crucified. These olive trees hold the many stories of Jesus and his followers, and as you walk through you may feel the peace the Christians believe he felt all those years ago.
Historically, this area held an enterprise of olive oil production, explaining the garden of olive trees that surrounds us. In the original text, “Gethsemane” is made up of two Hebrew words, “Gat Shemanei” , translating to “Olive Press”. Olive oil has and still does carry significance in the Christian religion, but in biblical times it was especially sacred as it was used in religious services and lit their candles and lamps, as well as used for cooking and healing.
The Garden of Gethsemane, also known as the Garden of Agony is believed to be where Jesus felt his deepest sorrows and pain as he knew of the events that would take place just shortly after. He sat here and prayed along some of the oldest olive trees to date now, until his arrest was made. A sacred site for Christians, as well as an impactful one for tourists.
Derekh Yerikho 52, Jerusalem
Right next to the Garden of Gethsemane, is the Church of All Nations. We are currently walking by the back of this church as it is the easiest route towards the peak of the Mount of Olives. If you’d like to take a look around before we make our way up please do!
The church is also known as the Basilica of the Agony, it was built in the early 20th century and is dedicated to the suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The church is a blend of Byzantine and Romanesque styles as you can see through its facade covered in mosaics and domes. The church is supposed to specifically pay respects to the exact moment Jesus prayed before his arrest, therefore many pilgrims and tourists make their way to this very church to honor Jesus and the suffering he endured.
The church is taken care of by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, a specific branch of the Franciscan Order that oversees and maintains all Christian holy sites. But, the title, “Church of All Nations” came about due to the fact that many countries from around the world made financial donations to support its construction. It is an international institution that holds value to not only those who reside nearby, but those from around the globe.
דרך יריחו، 52، Jerusalem
As we walk through the hills to reach the top of the Mount of Olives, we will come across other influential structures along the way. To your left is the Church of Mary Magdalene, an impressive church built in the 19th century in Russian Revival style as it is a Russian Orthodox church. I’m sure the first thing you may notice are the prominent golden onion domes, all topped with a cross. You can see these domes from many parts of the city and is a landmark in Jerusalem’s skyline.
The church was originally built in memory of Alexander III of Russia’s mother, but it is also dedicated to Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ important followers in the New Testament. She is considered a saint in the Orthodox tradition, and many make their way to the church to honor her.
The interior of the church is just as impressive as the exterior with its stunning mosaic and layout of the church. There is a large icon of Mary Magdalene that you will keep admiring, as well as an upper level that holds a balcony so visitors and pilgrims may see the church from a bird’s eye view.
With such a unique facade that will leave you breathless and such a strong religious history, the Church of Mary Magdalene is one to impress.
Another church stands on your left, one that is smaller in stature and adornment, but nonetheless important. Dominus Flevit Church, or in Latin, “The Lord Wept”, was built in 1955 on the traditional biblical site where it is said that Jesus wept over the city in Jerusalem, as he foresaw its destruction in the Gospel of Luke. The focal point inside the church is not a detailed fresco, or a grand statue, but rather an altar with a large window that overlooks the entire city of Jerusalem to represent Jesus in that very moment of reflection.
The church overall is a simple but elegant design, with many other windows throughout the space to see the city. But, a unique feature that you cannot see from inside or directly out, is that the church was built in the shape of a teardrop to symbolize the tears Jesus shed in the Bible. There might not be many obviously extravagant qualities about Dominus Flevit, but once you read between the lines, you realize how much significance this church really holds.
Rub'a el-Adawiya St 59, Jerusalem
Just above you on your left is the Chapel of the Ascension. Built in the 12th century, this chapel holds much significance in the Christian religion as it reflects the event of the ascension of Jesus Christ. It is said in the New Testament that after the resurrection of Jesus, he came to his disciples for 40 days, but on the last day it is believed that he ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives.
The site that the Chapel of the Ascension is built upon is believed to be the same location where the very first Christian church was constructed in the 4th century by Queen Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. Through the years, many churches have been built and destroyed here at this very spot where the Chapel of the Ascension now resides.
As you can see, the chapel is a small domed structure. But, inside is a stone imprinted with what is believed to be the footprint of Jesus Christ in the exact moment of his ascension. You can see this footprint in stone through a hole in the floor of the chapel
Rub'a el-Adawiya St 59, Jerusalem
As we reach the top of Mount of Olives, you will see a church up to your right. This is Pater Noster Church. The church is an important Christian religious location and is believed to be the site where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer as it says in the New Testament. It is said that at this very spot, all those years ago, is where Jesus Christ taught his followers how to pray. And for that, pilgrims come to this now church, to honor and thank Jesus for his teachings and his sacrifice.
The current church building is from the 19th century and is designed in a neo-Romanesque style with its elegant walkway with strong columns. But, the most interesting feature of this church is the interior. Inside Pater Noster Church, you will find ceramic tiles. On each tile, the Lord’s Prayer is written, each one being written in another language from the next. There are tiles inscribed with over 100 different languages throughout the church.
Pater Noster Church rests almost on the top of Mount of Olives, expressing its significance to the Christian religion and the importance it holds for its followers. This is a holy place that many believe is right where Jesus taught the very beginning of it all.
Chapel of the Ascension/Rabi'a Al-Adawiya, Jerusalem
We have officially reached the peak of the Mount of Olives. As we walked our way up, and we stopped at many of the Christian pilgrimage sites along the way, each time we learned a little more about the significance of the site we stand now. The Mount of Olives is a sacred place for many religions, but it holds quite a powerful place in the Christian religion, especially for Jesus Christ specifically.
With the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the hill, the location that is believed to be where Jesus prayed before his arrest, trial, and ultimately his crucifixion. Or Pater Noster Church where Jesus is said to have taught his followers the Lord’s Prayer, and lastly the ascension of Jesus Christ, at the location of the Church of the Ascension.
An event we have not even spoken about in regards to the Mount of Olives, is Jesus and his triumphal entry as it is said he rode a donkey down the hills of the Mount of Olives, while the people of Jerusalem greeted him with palm branches. That moment marked the final week of Jesus’ life, and is now celebrated as Palm Sunday.
As we stand atop the very peak of the Mount of Olives, we can reflect on all that we have experienced on this tour through Christianity in Jerusalem. We can look down at all the religion as gone through, and we can see the other side from where we stand now. There were many hardships as we know from the New Testament, and of course there always be, but standing at this very pilgrimage site, we can begin to learn and understand it.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to join me on this journey. We have really experienced so much, and I know the path to get here can be tiring in the hills, but I hope you feel it was worth it. Making our way up here is the best way possible to learn the history of Christianity in this remarkable city, Jerusalem. Please make your way down the same way we came, I’m sure going downhill is a bit easier!