Chapter 15/19 of book SEE JERUSALEM by INAM R SEHRI
ST JAMES CATHEDRAL
Armenian Quarter is the smallest quarter of the four in Old City. Armenian Quarter is also a Christian community but with distinct feel and looks; Tower of David and St James Cathedral are something grand and worth visiting. Comprising just one sixth of the Jerusalem old city area, the heart of the Armenian community lies between Jaffa and Zion gates and this is where the world famous Armenian ceramics of Jerusalem are created.
This quarter is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The Armenians were the first nation to formally accept Christianity here in Jerusalem in 301 AD but they had their presence here long before that – by record dating back to 96 BC at least. After Titus razed Jerusalem in year 70 AD and expelled most of the Jews, the Romans imported more Armenian merchants and administrators.
There are about 500 Armenians living in the Armenian quarter today and most of the neighbourhood is owned by the Armenian Patriarchate. The self-contained community revolves around St James Church and Monastery. The nearby Gulbenkian Library, founded in 1879, houses one of the world’s largest collections of Armenian manuscripts. The Armenian community is much closed and the only places tourists can visit on their own are the church and small museum. Armenians believe James, brother of Jesus, is buried. Among city’s holy sites, this one is often over looked - the church dates from the 12th century.
St James cathedral is dedicated to two Christian saints: James, son of Zebedee and James the brother of Jesus; the Cathedral itself is only open between 3:00 and 3:30 daily. At other times, you can still get into the courtyard of the complex and see the beautiful Armenian ceramics above and around the church doors. On either side of the doors one will see wooden and metal objects called nakos. These date to the 19th century when the Muslim rulers forbade Christians to ring church bells. The monks beat on the nakos like gongs, calling the faithful to prayer and worship.
Like Muslim shrines, the tourists are to make sure they are dressed modestly for this visit; a long list of rules is pasted at the entrance. In addition to the said guidelines, the fathers won’t let in men wearing shorts, frown on people putting their hands in their pockets and won’t let you sit with your legs crossed. Besides the church and library, the complex also includes a museum, a printing press, an elementary school, a high school, and residential apartments.
The Armenian quarter is also the source of the world famous Armenian ceramics of Jerusalem. Armenian tile-making took off in Jerusalem in the 19th century, when the Ottomans brought in several families of Armenian tile makers from Turkey to renovate the tile decorations on the Golden Dome in Haram Sharif [Dome of the Rock]. The families settled in this Jerusalem old city area and established workshops that continue to produce ceramic goods to this day. In several shops and studios you can even watch the artists at work. Some of the studios specialize in kitchen, bathroom and swimming pool tiles which are just beautiful; orders come in from around the world.
BASILICA OF ECCE HOMO:
Also known as Monastery of the sisters of Zion stands on the Via Dolorosa with an over the street arch and one end of which is part of the temple. It is located at the Second Station of the Cross where Christians remember the laying of the cross on Jesus. The entrance from the Via Dolorosa leads to the Basilica itself and to the glass wall, through which to view the interior of the Church. Side street is named after nuns of the sisters of Zion. The monastery was built in 1857 AD comprised of monastic buildings, the Church and the orphanage for girls, and later the nuns bought neighbouring houses.
The Latin words Ecce Homo (i.e. Behold the Man) are attributed to Pontius Pilate [adjudicator on the trial and crucifixion of Jesus] in the Gospel of John 19:5, when he presented an afflict Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd. The New Testament also says that Jesus was dressed in fake royal attire, to mock the claim that he was ‘King of the Jews.’
In the process of excavation there were discovered the Roman stone slabs. For some time, they were considered by the Pavement which testified Jesus, but then declared as a later paving dating from the 2nd century, as the arch of ECCE Homo. Also, there is Pool of Strothion - an ancient reservoir for rainwater, built by Herod the Great in Ist century BC; Stration was discovered directly beneath the monastery. The water's there, but the pool is covered with stones. It was built by the nuns when the tunnels of the Western Wall were opened; part of the pool is opened to visitors. Now, Strothion can be seen from two sides - from the tunnels and the monastery of the sisters of Zion.
In the monastery there is a modest but comfortable guest house. Staying there tourists can climb to the terrace on roof with coffee and unforgettable views of the Old City.
Aerial View of St James Cathedral  @ inamsehri.com
Entrance gate of St James Cathedral  @ inamsehri.com
Inside St James Cathedral  @ inamsehri.com
Inside St James Cathedral
Condemnation Church  @ inamsehri.com
Inside Condemnation Church  @ inamsehri.com
Monastery of Flagellation  @ inamsehri.com
Inside Ecce Homo Church  @ inamsehri.com
Inside Ecce Homo Church  @ inamsehri.com
Inside Prison of Christ  @ inamsehri.com
A shop of Armenian Art  @ inamsehri.com
The Prison of Christ  @ inamsehri.com