Dome of the Ascension

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Filed under:Israel and Palestine – In JerusalemLocations Tags:Church of the AscensionDome of the AscensionGreek OrthodoxheadJerusalemJesusJohn the BaptistJordan RiverLutheran Church of the AscensionMount of OlivesRussian OrthodoxtowerViri Galilaei Church 4:36 pm

Tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension )

The 64-metretowerthat dominates theMount of Olivesskyline belongs to the RussianOrthodoxChurch of the Ascension. It was built to this height in the 1870s so that pilgrims unable to walk to theJordan Rivercould climb its 214 steps and at least see the river.

Atop the freestanding square tower is a sharply-pointed belfry. It contains an eight-tonbell, 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 theOttomancity ofJerusalem.

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

An old tradition says the Baptistsheadwas 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 Orthodoxnunsfrom a variety of nations. They are renowned for their singing and their icon-writing.

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

Access is from Rabia al-Adawwiyya Street (which begins directly opposite the entrance to theChurch of Pater Noster) and along a lane on the right called Alley 7. To the left of a biggreen gateat the end of the lane is a door with a keypad to request entry.

Hollow in floor where John the Baptists 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 earlierByzantinechurch are believed to be thebloodof nuns slain during the Persian invasion of 614.

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

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

The tradition holds that a follower of Christ calledJoannasaw Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, throw Johns 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 Syrianmonkswho had come to Jerusalem as pilgrims, showing them where his head was buried.

Helena, the mother of the emperorConstantine, was in Jerusalem at the time and ordered a chapel to be built on the spot. The present chapel has a Byzantinemosaicfloor with ahollowsaid to mark the place where the head was discovered.

Lutheran Church of the Ascension (Isaac Shweky / Wikimedia)

The Ascension of Jesus iscommemoratedat three other sites on the Mount of Olives:

* TheDome 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 amosque.

* The LutheranChurch 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 OrthodoxViri 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?

Jesus ascends to heaven: Acts 1:9-11

Administered by:Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem

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

Tower of the Russian Church of the Ascension )

Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension (© Chad Emmett)

Dome of the Church of the Ascension )

Close-up of the Ascension of Jesus, in the dome of the Church of the Ascension (© Chad Emmett)

Stains on flagstones in front of the iconostasis are believed to be the blood of nuns slain in 614 (© Chad Emmett)

Icon of the Virgin Mary in Church of the Ascension (© Chad Emmett)

Chapel of the Head of St John the Baptist (© Chad Emmett)

Interior of Chapel of St John the Baptist (Ben Adam)

Hollow in floor where John the Baptists head is believed to have been found (Matanya Wikimedia)

Beheading of the Baptist, in the Chapel of the Head of St John the Baptist (© Chad Emmett)

Lutheran Church of the Ascension (Isaac Shweky / Wikimedia)

Russian Church of the Ascension dominating the Mount of Olives, with Lutheran Church of the Ascension at left (Yair Haklai Wikimedia)

Green door on Alley 7 leading to Russian Church of the Ascension )

Rock on which the Orthodox believe Mary was standing when Jesus went up to heaven )

Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem

Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide

Hilliard, Alison, and Bailey, Betty Jane:

Living Stones Pilgrimage: With the Christians of the Holy Land

The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700

Between Heaven and Earth: Churches and Monasteries of the Holy Land

Filed under:Israel and Palestine – In JerusalemLocations Tags:catacombscemeteryChruch of St Mary MagdaleneChurch of All NationsChurch of Dominus FlevitChurch of Pater NosterDome of the AscensionEzekielGethsemaneGolden Gatehighest peakJerusalemJesusKing DavidKing SolomonMessiahMount of OlivesMount OlivetTomb of MaryZechariah 11:30 am

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

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

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

In theOld 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 builtpagantemples there for the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:7-8).

Ezekiel had avisionof 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, theLordof hostswould stand on the Mount of Olives and the mount would be split in two from east to west (Zechariah 14:3-4).

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

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

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

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

Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives )

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

During theSiegeof 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, theMessiahwill 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 theTemple Mount, also known as the Gate of Mercy, or the Beautiful Gate).

For this reason, Jews have always sought to beburiedon the slopes of the mount. The area serves as one of Jerusalems main cemeteries, with an estimated 150,000 graves.

Among them is a complex ofcatacombscalled the Tombs of theProphets. 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.

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

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

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 Jerusalems 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 Christs teaching of the Lords 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 ofGethsemane: 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.

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

Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives )

Looking down the Mount of Olives to Dominus Flevit Church and East Jerusalem (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

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

Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives (Trish )

Mount of Olives from Mount Zion with Temple Mount at left and Church of the Ascension on the skyline (Ian W. Scott)

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

Altar at Tomb of Mary on Mount of Olives (Svetlana Makarova)

Steeple of Church of the Ascension, on the crest of the Mount of Olives )

Pater Noster Church on Mount of Olives (© Deror Avi)

Mount of Olives from Temple Mount (© )

Dome of the Ascension on Mount of Olives )

Church of St Mary Magdalene on Mount of Olives )

Grotto of Gethsemane on Mount of Olives )

Harvest from the olive trees at Gethsemane (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem

The Holy Land: A Pilgrims Guide to

Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide

The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700

Mount of Olives(Studium Biblicum Franciscanum)

Filed under:Israel and Palestine – In JerusalemLocations Tags:19AscensionChurch of the AscensionCrusadersDome of the AscensionfootprintImbomonJesusLutheranmosqueMount of OlivesMuslimRussian Orthodox 4:39 pm

Dome of the Ascension (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

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

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

Plain and unadorned, the Dome of the Ascension stands in a walledcompoundeast of the main road that runs on the top of theMount of Olivesin Jerusalem. The location is just north of theChurch 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 sultanSaladinwhen he defeated theCrusadersin 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 Jesusright footon earth before he ascended into heaven.

Footprint stone in Dome of Ascension )

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

Known as the Imbomon (Greek for on the hill), it was arotunda, 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 andrebuiltbut 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 thisstrategicposition on the crest of the Mount of Olives, the Crusaders controlled the road betweenJerichoandJerusalem.

The footprints were still venerated, but now they were reported to becarvedinto 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 amihrabthey inserted to indicate the direction of Mecca. They took the section bearing the left footprint to theAl-Aqsa Mosqueon theTemple Mount, where it was placed behind the pulpit there.

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 adomeover the opening in the roof.

The ornately carvedcapitalson 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 theirAscensionfeast 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 smallmosquebuilt in 1620.

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

Three more recentchurcheson the Mount of Olives commemorate the Ascension.

At the summit is theRussian OrthodoxChurch of the Ascension, dating from the late 19th century. Its tall tower, one of Jerusalems most prominent landmarks, was built to enable pilgrims to see the Jordan River.

On the north side is theGerman LutheranChurch 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 theGreek OrthodoxViri 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

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)

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

Dome of the Ascension (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Ascension of Christ, by Pierre Reymond (St Louis Art Museum), depicting footsteps left in the rock

Inside the Lutheran Church of the Ascension or Augusta Victoria Church (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

The Ascension of Christ, by Garofalo (Galleria Nazionale dArte Antica, Rome)

Footprint stone in Dome of Ascension )

Interior of Dome of the Ascension (Yoav Dothan / Wikimedia)

Hooks for feast-day awnings at Dome of the Ascension (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Night-time celebration of the Ascension at the Dome of the Ascension (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Tower of Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension )

Franciscan friars arriving at the Dome of the Ascension (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Procession celebrating the Ascension at the Dome of the Ascension (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Christ ascending in the dome of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension )

Bagatti, Bellarmino: Footprints of the Saviour on the Mount of Olives,

Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem

Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds):

(Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)

Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide

The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700

Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem(Sacred Destinations)

Chapel of the Ascension panorama(Jesus in Jerusalem)

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