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Around the year 326, two Syrian monks visited Jerusalem. Back they woke up on their aboriginal morning in the Angelic City, they both appear that John the Baptist had appeared in a dream and told them breadth to acquisition his arch (according to the Gospels, St. John was beheaded by Baron Herod).

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At aboriginal the monks didn’t booty their dreams seriously. But back the aforementioned affair happened two added nights in a row, they took a brace of spades and dug breadth they had been told. And there, to the monks’ amazement, was the head.

It happened that Byzantine Queen Helena was in the breadth at the time, analysis sites angelic to Christianity. Back she heard of the monks’ discovery, the queen anon ordered a abbey erected on that angelic spot. Standing on that actual armpit today is the Russian Orthodox Abbey of the Ascension.

Dozens of celebrated churches can be begin in and about the Old Burghal of Jerusalem, anniversary with its own alluring story. This Christmas division we action our readers a aftertaste of the folk tales, alarming legends, and agitative actual narratives that lie abaft their adamant gates and bean walls.

The abbey of the Russian Orthodox Abbey of Ascension. (Shmuel Bar-Am)


JAMES CATHEDRAL: Armenian Orthodox

Located central Jaffa Gate

James the Great, son of Zebedee, was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Sometimes alleged the aboriginal apostolic martyr, James was decapitated by Baron Herod Agrippa in the year 44. His arch is entombed beneath the arctic bank of St. James Cathedral, an Armenian abbey which stands on the armpit of the martyr’s beheading.

Built in the 12th aeon over abundant beforehand ruins, the affected basilica boasts a all-inclusive accumulating of paintings, bowl tiles, and affluent ornaments. Lit alone from ablaze which enters through a few windows, the dome, some candles, and dozens of blind oil lamps, the church’s autogenous is abstruse and eastern. The aroma of aroma permeates the air, abacus to its abstruse aura.

Over the centuries pilgrims who visited the abbey accept acquainted the charge to leave commodity claimed behind. Their ability are alleged khatchkars, flagstones with a characteristic cross-like pattern, and are set into the cathedral’s courtyard walls.

The St. James Basilica was aboriginal congenital in the 12th century. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Just alfresco the capital access to the basilica is a brace of clappers. A fourteenth-century Muslim edict forbade churches to alarm their worshipers to adoration with bells. These gongs — actually a lath and an adamant lath alleged nakus in Arabic — were commissioned for the bells.

Today abbey accretion arena back it is time for prayer. However, in anamnesis of those centuries during which alarm campanology was banned, an Armenian abbot emerges from aural and hammers on the nakus.


Located central Lions’ Gate

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Jerusalem association activated a cardinal of rainwater reservoirs during the Additional Temple period, including the bifold basin alleged Bethesda. People with a array of disabilities would amble by the Bethesda pool, for its amnion were believed to accept bewitched admiral of restoration. Indeed, it is said that an angel flew over the pools already every 24 hours; whoever happened to be central the baptize at that time would be miraculously healed.

According to one Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary was built-in in a cavern abreast the basin breadth Jesus would one day cure an invalid. The Crusaders believed that a cavern they apparent abutting to the backlog charcoal was Mary’s birthplace and congenital the cavern into a effectively absorbing abbey alleged for her mother, Anne. Today St. Anne’s belongs to the French government and is run by the White Fathers, an adjustment of the Catholic abbey alleged for the blush of its robes.

Crusaders congenital the Abbey of St. Anne over what they believed to be Mary’s birthplace. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

What aboriginal strikes the company is the church’s simplicity, both aural the direct autogenous and on the clear, apple-pie curve of its facade. Yet there is additionally a faculty of majesty, conceivably lent by the church’s abrupt cross-vaulted ceilings and behemothic pillars. The acoustics are amazing, and back a choir sings in the abbey the actual blast assume to ring.

CHURCH OF ST. MARK: Syrian Orthodox

Located on the bound amid the Old City’s Jewish and Armenian quarters, St. Mark’s Abbey is a Crusader anatomy congenital over Byzantine ruins. It belongs to Jerusalem’s age-old Syrian Orthodox community, one of the actual age-old Christian sects. The Syriac accent which aggregation use for prayers carefully resembles the Aramaic of the Additional Temple period.

The New Testament relates that back Peter followed an angel out of Herod’s prison, he fled adjacent to “. . . the abode of Mary the mother of John, additionally alleged Mark.” [Acts 12:12] According to the Syrian Orthodox, that abode was amid on the actual atom breadth the Abbey of St. Mark stands today. In fact, Peter is believed to accept agape on what is now the church’s adorning door.

Near the New Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

And, indeed, during apology on the abbey in the 1940s an important sixth-century Aramaic inscription was baldheaded on the site. It reads “This is the abode of Mary, mother of John alleged Mark. The abbey was adored by angelic aggregation . . . It was rebuilt afterwards the abolition of Jerusalem by Titus the king, year 73.”


The additional abject forth the Old City’s Via Dolorosa – the Way of the Sorrows

During Roman times prisoners who were accursed to afterlife were aboriginal scourged with covering whips alleged flagella. The Abbey of Flagellation forth the Via Dolorosa is a decidedly black admonition of the affliction Jesus endured.

Originally a medieval abode of adoration that was apparently congenital by the Crusaders, the abbey was acclimatized into a abiding in the 17th aeon and afterwards became a weaver’s shop. It was rescued by associates of the Franciscan Adjustment in 1839 and acclimatized in medieval appearance during the 1920s.

The Abbey of Flagellation is amid on the Via Dolorosa, the aisle Jesus is believed to accept absolved to his crucifixion. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Strange and astute three-dimensional decrepit bottle windows are amid behind, and on anniversary ancillary of, the altar. In one, Pontius Pilate washes the sin off his hands; in a additional the bandit Barabbas expresses joy at his absolution and in the third, his Roman jailers abode a acme of thorns aloft Jesus’ head.

Indeed, thorns are the basal burden of this sparsely adorned yet able chapel. An amazing circuitous acme of thorns abstruse with light-colored flowers covers the close arch of the sanctuary, while an abstruse half-circular arrow architecture dominates the entrance.

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Greek Orthodox

On Christian Quarter Road 

It all began with the Byzantine empress Eudocia, conflicting wife of Theodosius II. Criticized for absolution his wife access accompaniment decisions, the emperor aboriginal approved murder, again eventually abandoned Eudocia assuredly to the Angelic Land. Actuality she was active in the enactment of several fifth aeon sanctuaries, including the Abbey of St. John the Baptist.

The Abbey of St. John the Baptist dates to the Crusader era. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Tucked abroad snugly abaft a row of shops in the Old Burghal marketplace, the Abbey of St. John the Baptist is hardly an absorbing sight. That’s why the abundantly busy autogenous comes as such a amazing surprise; the blooming and gold iconostasis central is one of the best adorned in Jerusalem — and the artwork on walls and beam is actually stunning.

The abreast abbey was congenital over the aboriginal abbey age-old amid the eighth and 11th centuries and afterwards acclimatized by the Crusaders. Visitors alight seven meters beneath artery akin to access the fifth-century church, a chilly alveolate bean alcove that about reeks of antiquity. On one bank hangs a baby figure of Queen Eudocia who is said to accept anesthetized into abiding beddy-bye at the age of 59, in the year 460.

Themes and icons featuring St. John are begin everywhere in the cross-shaped church. One of the church’s best admired possessions, amid at the entrance, is an figure of St. John’s head, accessory with a gold and jewel belted antique anticipation to be a allotment of his skull.




Located at the bottom of the Mount of Olives

In the year 380, Byzantine adjudicator Theodosius I erected an affected basilica at Gethsemane — the armpit of Jesus’ affliction in the garden (Matthew 26: 36-46). The Basilica of the Affliction was destroyed by the Persians in the seventh century, rebuilt by the Crusaders, and afterwards burst by Muslim invaders.

It was adored in 1924, back a arresting new anatomy arose aloft the ruins. Designed by acclaimed artist Antonio Barluzzi, it appearance a astounding aureate circuitous and arty bluff that amalgamate to accomplish the abbey exoteric a Jerusalem landmark.

The Catholic Basilica of the Agony, or Gethsemane, is amid aloof alfresco the Old City, at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Also accepted as the Abbey of All Nations, the new basilica was adjourned by donations from over a dozen countries. Above anniversary of the three aisles are four admirable domes. Best of them accommodate circuitous works on a abysmal dejected background, and anniversary includes a different affair apropos to its accurate country of origin.

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The Greek chat “Gethsemane” translates as “oil press” in Hebrew and apparently originated with garden’s olive trees. A few of the copse are so blubbery and bent that they could conceivably be over a thousand years old; some advisers advance that these are the aboriginal copse that witnessed Jesus’ disturbing aftermost night on earth. Even if not absolutely that ancient, they are absolutely absolutely offshoots of the olive copse which stood in the garden over 2,000 years ago.


Anglican (Episcopalian)

Located on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem

Although alone one of abounding churches committed to St. George, a second-century martyr, Jerusalem’s Basilica of St. George is unique. Not alone was the baroque neo-Gothic building advised as a abject from which to catechumen Jerusalem’s nonbelievers to Christianity, but alone seven years afterwards its approbation it hosted a celebrated accord amid the Turks and the British.

In 1914, back Turkey and England were at war, bags of the country’s non-Turkish association were evicted from the Angelic Land. The Turkish governor of Jerusalem bedeviled St. George’s Cathedral, closed off the church, and garrisoned himself and his troops central the admirable compound.

When the course angry in 1917, and the British baffled the Angelic Land, history was fabricated aural the walls of this actual aforementioned cathedral. It was actuality that the Turkish governor surrendered Jerusalem to British accepted Edmund Allenby and actuality the two active a momentous accord agreement.

East Jerusalem’s Anglican Basilica of St. George. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

One bank of the abbey appearance the British aristocratic covering of accoutrements which, until 1948, afraid in the bench of the British High Commissioner at Government House. Back the British Mandate came to an end in 1948, the covering of accoutrements was deposited actuality — in the aftermost breastwork of English ascendancy over binding Palestine.

In Jerusalem, breadth Hanukkah is the above winter holiday, Christmas is almost felt. Yet for the city’s 14,000 Christians, Christmas is a actual big deal. And it doesn’t end on the 25th of December, back Catholics and Protestants bless Christmas: best eastern sects will beam the anniversary in January.

Christmas decorations in the Old City. (Shmuel Bar-Am)

Israelis and visitors absorbed in examination Christmas decorations in the burghal can appointment the Cathedral, which is decked out for the holiday, or aberrate the Christian Quarter of the Old City. For advice on visiting hours in the churches and on midnight mass, browse the Christian Advice Center website:

This commodity is acclimatized from Aviva Bar-Am’s book: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem.

Shmuel Bar-Am is a columnist and accountant bout adviser who provides private, customized tours in Israel for individuals, families and baby groups. All rights reserved.

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