Friday, February 19, 2010

Mt. Zion

The kids had Thursday and Friday off so on Thursday morning we went to visit a few churches that are not open to tourists on Sundays--our usual touring days. Our first two choices on the Mt. of Olives were closed during the first week of lent so we opted for plan B. Our first stop was the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (cockcrow). It is on the lower slope of Mt. Zion on the traditional site of the home of Ciaphas, High Priest of the Sanhedrin.
The entry door is a metal sculpture of Jesus at the last supper telling Peter that before the cock crows (red tail in center of photo) he will deny Jesus three times. Peter looks shocked at such an accusation.
Beautiful stained class ceiling. This was a first time visit for everyone but me. It is now one of our favorite sites.
Mosaic in the upper level of the church showing Jesus being tried before the Sanhedrin.
Painting in the lower level of Peter weeping after the betrayal.
From the lower level you can look down to the lowest level via this hole in the rock floor. Byzantine crosses identify this as a holy site.
The hole leads into a chamber that is considered a possible dungeon where those tried before the Sanhedrin were imprisoned.
Next door are chambers where prisoners may have been held. There are holes in the stone above the center section. These holes might have been used to tie up the arms of prisoners so that they could receive their punishment of lashings. While few things are certain when trying to identify holy sites, this is a nice place to consider the trial, suffering and betrayal of Jesus.
Outside of the church are Roman era stone steps that lead down the hill to the Kidron valley and then on to Gethsemane. Jesus may have very likely walked down these steps going from the Last Supper to Gethsemane and then up them later that night for his trial before Ciaphas. This is one of the best places in the land to sing "I walked today where Jesus walked."
Next stop the German built Dormition Abbey.
This church commemorates the place where Mary fell into her eternal sleep before her assumption into heaven. Near Gethsemane is a church commemorating her burial and assumption. All of the Mary traditions are very confusing. The Catholic and Orthodox views of what happened to Mary are not in agreement.
At the center of the crypt of the church is a life size statue of Mary in her eternal rest. The dome above Mary includes wonderful mosaics of six other important biblical women.
Jael with the head of Sisera whom she killed by pounding a tent peg in his temple while he slept after fleeing Deborah and Barak. Ruth with her gleanings.
Esther--the Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people (Purim next week celebrates this event) and Eve.
The prophetess Miriam (Moses' sister) with a tambourine celebrating deliverance from Egypt and Judith (who has a whole book named after her in the Catholic Apocrypha).
The bell tower of the Dormition Abbey and and the Mosque minaret at the Upper Room.
One of the most unusual holy sites in Jerusalem is the structure that houses the traditional tomb of David in the lower level and the chamber associated with the last supper in the upper level.
The Upper Room commemorates the last supper. It is a Crusader structure that was then turned into a mosque (notice the mihrab pointing the prayer direction to Mecca) that is still claimed by the Franciscans. The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Mark in the Armenian quarter is another traditional site of the last supper. In that church the upper room of the last supper is in the basement of the church--which at the time of Jesus would have been at the level of an upper room. The tomb of David below. The validity of this site is highly doubted, but it still serves as a place of Jewish prayer and veneration.

Zion's Gate into the old city. The pockmarks are from the fighting for the city in 1948 and 1967.


  1. Another great post. We remember visiting both sites when we were in Jerusalem - I think the picture we have of you coming down some stone steps was taken after we visited the Upper Room that is still "upper."

  2. The first pair of women in image from Mt. Zion Dormition above is Judith and Ruth.

    Then, you correctly identified Esther and Eve.

    The last pair of women is Deborah and Jael (pronounced Ya'el) from Judges, chapters 4 and 5.