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Chapter 17/19 of book       SEE JERUSALEM      by      INAM R SEHRI


Chapel of the Ascension in Jerusalem is a Christian holy site that is believed to mark the place from where Nabi Jesus AS ascended into heaven. The small round church contains a stone imprinted with the holy footprints of Jesus; scripts from the holy Bible [Luke & Acts referred].


The Status Quo, 260s year old understanding between religious communities of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, applies to this site, too.

Before the conversion of Ruler Constantine [312 AD], early Christians honoured the Ascension of Christ in a cave on the Mount of Olives. By the year 384 AD, the place of the Ascension was venerated on the present open site, uphill from the cave. The first church was built here around 390 AD by a pious Roman lady; it was once destroyed in the Persian attack of 614 AD but restored later.


In year 680 AD the church was reconstructed as similar round building but open to the sky, where eight lamps used to shine brightly at night through windows facing Jerusalem. Inside was a central aedicule [small shrine] containing the footprints of holy Christ clearly impressed.

The Crusaders, in c.1150, rebuilt Church of the Ascension as a roofed octagon and fortified the exterior but since long remained deserted. In year 1198 AD, ten years after the fall of the Crusader kingdom, Salah Din got added a stone dome and mihrab in it; then brought it in use as a mosque. It continued so for over 300 years but fell into ruin again in ending 15th century, and the east section of the octagonal surround-wall got damaged. A mosque and minaret were added afresh to the building in year 1620 AD and the entire site was entrusted to Muslims for effective maintenance.

Want to See the Chapel? Ring the bell for admission if the door is not open. To the right of the entrance is a small 1620’s mosque, Zawiyat al-Adawiyya; the entrance leads into a courtyard with a paved path. The exterior walls are decorated with arches and slim marble columns. On the floor, inside an asymmetrically placed frame, is a slab of stone imprinted with the right footprint of Christ before he ascended to heaven; left foot-print is housed in Aqsa by the name: the Ascension Rock.

Hooks in the wall around the courtyard are used to stretch tents for the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension, which attracts many pilgrims; AND is annually celebrated. The Day that commemorates the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven is observed on Thursday, near 40th day of Easter.

Going there: The Chapel of Ascension and the Zawiyat al-Adawiyya Mosque are located in village AL-TUR on the Mount of Olives - easy to reach it on foot from the Old City. It is also possible to take bus #75 from the Bus Station next to the Damascus Gate, which will take you there. Christians recall how the Lord lived for only 33 years on earth – well, actually only three years with his Ministry; Nabi Jesus AS in fact showed the people to live as truthful though short.


Nearby on the Mount Olives, one sect of the Christians declare another premises as Church of the Ascension. The 64m high tower that dominates Mount of Olives skyline belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church. It was built to this height in 1870s so that pilgrims unable to walk to the Jordan River could climb its 214 steps and at least see the river. Atop the tower, there is an eight-ton bell, cast in Russia and was pulled and pushed by women pilgrims — on circular wagon from the port of Jaffa. It was the first Christian bell to ring in the Ottoman city of Jerusalem. Since 1907, the church is in the custody of Russian Orthodox nuns from various nations - renowned for their singing and icon-making. The church, including a pilgrims’ hostel, is set among gardens with a large olive grove.

Access is from Rabi’a al-Adawiyya Street [which begins directly opposite the entrance to the Church of Pater Noster] and along a lane called Alley 7. To the left of a big green gate at the end of the lane is a door with a keypad to request entry.

The cross-shaped church is surmounted by a dome; stains on flagstones from an earlier Byzantine church are believed to be the blood of nuns slain during the Persian invasion of 614 AD. Attached to an outside wall, protected by a grate, is rock on which the Orthodox believe Mary, the mother of Jesus, was standing when her son ascended to heaven.

In this church, there is a void in floor where John the Baptist’s head is believed to have been found; one sect of Christians claims so but no other biblical literature supports it. Later, a chapel was built at that particular spot.


A small burial vault next to the chapel is revered by all three monotheistic religions, but based on different beliefs about its occupant. Jews believe it contains the 7th century BC prophet Huldah, one of seven female prophets mentioned in the Bible [2 Kings 22:14-20]; Christians hold it to be the tomb of the 5th century saint Pelagia; while Muslims maintain that 8th century holy woman Rabi'a al-Adawiya, also a Sufi saint but migrated from Syria then, for whom the mosque is named, is buried here.

Most people take this Rabi'a al-Adawiya as Rabia Basri of Iraq who is said to have been born between 714 and 718 AD in Basra. Much of Rabiʻa Basri’s early life has been recounted by Farid ud-Din Attar; a later Sufi saint and poet. Rabi'ah al-Basri of Iraq was a Sufi saint and is considered to be the first female Sufi Saint of Islam. She also lived during the 8th Century BUT she spent all of her life in Basra.


It is a Roman Catholic Church located on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - standing right next to the ruins of 4th century Byzantine Church of Eleona – which were re-discovered in the 20th century and its walls were partially rebuilt. Here, Christians recall Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples. On its walls and its vaulted cloister, translations of the Lord’s Prayer in 140 languages are inscribed on colourful ceramic and marble plaques. When the Crusaders built a church here in 12th century, they called it Pater Noster [in Latin: Our beloved Father].

The Gospels suggest that Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer at least twice; Matthew 6:5-15 & Luke 11:1-4 are referred. The cave under the Pater Noster Church certainly existed in Jesus’ time. When the Emperor Constantine built a three-level church on the site in 330 AD, it commemorated the Ascension of holy Christ here; then this historic church was known as the Eleona [in Greek: of olives]. The cave is also believed to be associated with Jesus’ prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem [later happened in year 70 AD] and his Second Coming.

The Crusades built a small oratory amid the ruins in 1106 AD while a full church was constructed in 1152 AD - but was heavily damaged during Sultan Saladin's siege of Jerusalem in 1187 AD; eventually being abandoned and falling into ruin since 1345 AD. The present church was completed in 1874 AD by a French Princess Bossi. She got erected translations of the prayer in 39 different languages; while the buildings were being constructed, she lived nearby in a wooden cabin. She died in Florence in 1889 AD, but her last wish was for her remains to rest in this Church, in a tomb which she had got prepared in her life. Her wish was fulfilled in year 1957; on top of her stone-coffin now lays her life-size statue.

Inside Church; steps below the altar platform lead down to the crypt of the 4th century basilica, partially built in the cave but only a little of the stonework could un-earth that original church. A 1st-century tomb, which Constantine’s engineers had blocked up with masonry, can now be seen – hats off to the new archaeological efforts.


Halfway down the western slope of Mount of Olives, recalls the Gospel incident in which holy Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem; now there lays the Dominus Flevit – Roman Catholic Church. Its unique design and construction was done in 1953-55 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi but it occupies an ancient site. It stands on the ruins of a Byzantine church from the 5th century, dedicated to the Christian prophetess St Anna, and in an area of tombs dating back as far as 1600 BC.

Dominus Flevit [in Latin: The Lord Wept], was fashioned in the shape of a tear-drop [on the four corners of its dome] to symbolize the tears of holy Christ. Here, according to the Gospel of Luke [19:37-42], holy Jesus predicted Second Temple’s destruction. Within 40 years, in AD 70, holy Jesus’ prophesy came as true. Roman armies besieged Jerusalem and, after six months of fighting, burnt the Temple and levelled the city to ground.

During the Crusaders’ era, a small chapel was built here. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 AD, the church fell into ruin. In early 16th century a mosque named El-Mansouriyeh existed at the site, presumably built by the Turks on the remains of the earlier church - although disputed amongst historians. In 1891, the Franciscans purchased a small plot of land nearby and built a small chapel there. In 1913 homes were built here for ‘the Sisters of St Joseph’ – the nuns.

In 1940, the old boundary wall was moved and in 1953 the Franciscans began construction of another wall. While digging the foundations, workers unearthed ancient tombs; excavations were led by Fr B Bagatti, a well-known archaeologist of Israel.

A late Bronze Age tomb from the Canaanite period and an ancient cemetery of periods from 136 BC to 300 AD were discovered but characterized by differing tomb styles. The earlier Second Temple era tombs were of the Kokhim style, while the Byzantine era section was composed of tombs with half-arches from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. A Byzantine monastery from the 5th century was also discovered here. Nearby, also unearthed were the remains of an elaborate mosaic floor from the ruined Byzantine church; it has been preserved, to the left of the entrance. An inscription in Greek referring to Simon - a friend of holy Christ, can also be seen at the place.


It is a Russian Orthodox Church located on the Mount of Olives, near the Garden of Gethsemane near Old City – dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. According to the Gospel of Mark [16:9], Mary Magdalene was the first to see Christ after his resurrection. She is considered a crucial disciple of holy Jesus, and seemingly his primary female associate — and being present at holy Christ’s crucifixion - and who was the first recorded witness of his re-appearance.

This church was built in 1886 AD by Tsar Alexander III to honour his mother as per traditional design popular in 16-17th century Russia, and has seven distinctive gilded onion domes. The convent is located directly across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount. The relics of two martyred saints are also exhibited in the church.


It makes a specially striking scene at night, when its floodlit domes seem to be floating above the dark trees that surround it. Although the intricately decorated façade appears to be made of marble, it is actually of sculpted white sandstone. Above the entrance a circular blue mosaic medallion depicts Mary Magdalene robed in white. In its convent, there live about 30 Russian Orthodox nuns from different countries AND particularly known for the quality of their singing in public worship.

Inside church, a 16th century icon of the Virgin Mary in a hand-carved wooden case keeps a place of honour - said to have miraculous powers. On one side of the nave is a marble stone coffin, each containing the body of a German princess and of a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria.

In a chamber below the church is buried Princess Alice of Greece, the mother in Law of England’s Queen Elizabeth. She had expressed a wish to be buried near Grand Duchess Elizabeth, who was her aunt.

[In 1930s, Princess Alice, mother of the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the church and asked to be buried near her aunt, the Grand - Duchess Elizabeth. In 1969, she died at Buckingham Palace in England AND in 1988, her remains were transferred to a burial chamber below this church.]  

…….."Convent of St Mary Magdalene" – A write up of Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem is referred.

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Lady Magdalene Church [2018] @

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 Foot print of the Holy Jesus in Chapel of Ascension 2008     Courtesy: Adriatikus [wikimedia]

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Dominus Flevit Church [2018] @

Tomb of Rabia El Adawiyya [2018] @

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Lord's Prayer in 131 languages - inside Pater Noster Church [2018] @

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NEOPOLIS: where c4000 years old graves found in Dominus Flevit Church yard [2018] @

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Lord's Prayer in 131 languages - inside Pater Noster Church [2018] @

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Lord's Prayer in 131 languages - inside Pater Noster Church [2018] @

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Inside Lady Magdalene Church [2018] @

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