The altar may bring to mind the incense altar in the Temple, where the old priest Zacharias was officiating. An angel announced to him that he and his long barren wife were to have a son, "and you will give him the name John." Zacharias doubted what he had heard, and so the angel struck him dumb until the thing should come to pass.
Ein Kerem is the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. From Luke 1:39, we know that his parents, Elizabeth and Zacharias, were living in the hill country, in a city of Judah, but the town is not named.
Mary's prayer is called the "Magnificat." It appears in 41 different languages on as many plaques in the courtyard.
While John was in Elizabeth's womb, the pregnant Mary visited her. To the southwest, on a hill, the facade of a Church of the Visitation presents a mosaic (made in 1955) depicting Mary's visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39-45) : Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."
The village of 'En Kerem is situated to the west of Jerusalem. It is nice, green and hilly. Here is found the Grotto of the Birth of St. John. On the lintel is a Latin inscription "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68)---the first words of the prophecy uttered by Zacharias at the birth of his son. The full text is written in many languages on walls of the courtyard.
In the church courtyard, a striking pillar is supposed to mark the spot of Peter's denial when confronted to the High priest's servant.
A Byzantine shrine dedicated to Peter's repentance was erected on this spot in the middle of the fifth century and was later destroyed by Moslem invaders. The chapel was rebuilt by the Crusaders and given a new name: St. Peter's in Gallicantu. Galli-cantu means cock-crow in Latin and today a golden rooster protrudes prominently from the sanctuary roof.
Few structures combine the ancient with the new as successfully as the dazzling Church of St. Peter on the eastern slopes of Mount Zion. Erected in 1931 to commemorate Peter's triple rejection of Jesus and his subsequent remorse, the church is an amazing blend of contemporary lines, primitive art, and antiquity. All have been brilliantly fused together to create a superbly designed masterpiece which make it far more than an ordinary house of worship.
In the background,the church of Saint Peter in Galicantu
At the Dormition Basilica, in the center of the crypt under a mosaic dome, is a sculpture of Mary lying on her deathbed.
The neo-Romanesque Catholic Basilica, Dormitio Sanctae Mariae Church, is in a dominant position on Mount Zion.
The Dormition Abbey was built when Kaiser Willem II had been able to acquire the site from the Sultan in 1898 and in 1908 the Dormition Basilica was consecrated. The lovely mosaic floor has three interlocking circles in the middle as a symbol of the Trinity.
Father John De Ridder s.j. and Fathers F. Shelton, C. Perera, J. Nechikatt & O. Kumbalakushy (Indian Diocesan priests-students at Leuven), concelebrate in the Basilica cared for by German Benedictine monks.
Near the church built there called St. Peter in Gallicantu, ruins have been uncovered. They could be what is left of the house of Caiphas the High Priest.
This is the Kidron Valley below the Golden Gate (right of center along the wall) with the Mount of Olives behind . In 2000 the ground near the Golden Gate collapsed revealing a gate below the modern one. The hole was filled as this area is a Moslem graveyard. The southwestern portion of this wall was close to first century Herodian (Second Temple era) foundations of the outer wall of Jerusalem. Jesus may have exited a gate facing east towards the spot the photo was taken from.
View of the city wall from the Mount of Olives
Along the outer face of the Herodian western wall of the Temple Mount, a long narrow tunnel was dug slowly under the supervision of archeologists. As work progressed under the buildings of the present Old City, the tunnel was systematically reinforced with concrete supports. A stretch of the Western Wall — nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) long — was revealed in pristine condition, exactly as constructed by Herod. In this confined space, you are walking on the original pavement from the Second Temple period and following in the footsteps of the pilgrims who walked here 2,000 years ago on their way to participate in the rituals on the Temple Mount. At the end of this man-made tunnel, a 65 foot (20 meters) long section of a paved road and an earlier, rock-cut Hasmonean aqueduct leading to the Temple Mount were uncovered. A short new tunnel leads outside to the Via Dolorosa in the Muslim Quarter.
Entering a tunnel at the prayer plaza, one turns northwards into a medieval complex of subterranean vaulted spaces and a long corridor with rooms on either side. Incorporated into this complex is a Roman and medieval structure of vaults, built of large dressed limestone.The vaulted complex ends at Wilson's Arch, named after the explorer who discovered it in the middle of the 19th century.
The Western Wall in the midst of the Old City in Jerusalem is the section of the Western supporting wall of the Temple Mount which has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple (70 A.C.). It became the most sacred spot in Jewish religious and national consciousness and tradition by virtue of its proximity to the Western Wall of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, from which, according to numerous sources, the Divine Presence never departed. It became a center of mourning over the destruction of the Temple and Israel's exile, on the one hand, and of religious - in 20th century also national - communion with the memory of Israel's former glory and the hope for its restoration, on the other. Because of the former association, it became known in European languages as the "Wailing Wall".
From the Mount Zion height, the Holy City and the outer Wall appear in their white splendour, with Mount Scopus in the distance.
For a special view of the Old City of Jerusalem and the surrounding area, take a walk on the ancient walls. There are two entrance points for a "ramparts walk" at the Jaffa Gate, one immediately inside the gate and one near the entrance to David's Citadel. You climb the stairs at one of these points and follow the route of the wall around the city, either north or south. Don't worry: there's a guard rail. The entire length is 4 kilometers - but you don't have to do it all. Each way takes about an hour. The entrance point at the Jaffa Gate is up a narrow flight of stairs. At the top is a ticket booth. The price is 16 shekels for adults and 8 shekels for children. Following this route will take you north, overlooking the Christian and Muslims quarters, ending at the Via Dolorosa. You don't need to be particularly fit for this, but there are some steep flights of stairs to negotiate, and the paths are of rough hewn stones, so don't try this in stiletto heels.
Beneath the church are a series of carved-out chambers from the Second Temple period. Since Catholic tradition positions the palace of Caiaphas on this very site, it logically follows that Jesus may have been imprisoned in one of these very same underground crypts. Jesus was taken to the torture chamber. There is no other name for the place that fits the setting. It is a room, hewn in the rocks. Pillars of stone were not hewn away so that they can support the buildings above. Holes were bored through both the vertical columns and the lintel above so that each arm can be secured from the roof and each leg stretched out sideways and attached to the pillars. The prisoner is suspended in the air and every part of his body is available for the whip of the questioners. They beat him, questioned him, tortured him and threw him into a nearby pit. The pit too is a form of torture. There is only one entrance, from above. It is nearly twenty feet deep. It was probably first used as a cistern and is usually subject to dampness. It was filthy and probably had several inches of water on the floor. Jesus was beaten, bleeding, and weary, in great pain and there was no place to sit except in the muddy water in the bottom of a pit.
On a lower level of the St Peter in Gallicantu church, there is easy access to a succession of caves from the Second Temple period. And finally, you exit into an excavated yard which includes a stone trail probably dating back to that same era. Many Christians believe that Jesus followed this path down to Gethsemane on Holy Thursday night.
Mount Zion, today with Jewish, Christian and Moslem shrines, was already part of the upper town at the time of Herod.
At the original street level, in the interior of the Church of the Sisters of Zion, is the pavement of one of the courtyards in the Antonia fortress (built under the rule of Mark Antony), the lithostrotos of the gospel, bearing scratches made on it by Roman soldiers, playing the game basileus. This may have been the pavement on which Jesus stood before Pilate, when he was judged, mocked and crowned with thorns.
The Coptic Orthodox Church's clergy is headed by the Pope of Alexandria, Pope Shenouda III. For hundreds of years Alexandria, the second city of Egypt, was the home of the Pope but today his Cathedral is in Cairo.
This site commemorates Jesus' Last Supper, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost . The Franciscan order constructed this building in 1335 AD, and when they were expelled in 1523, it became the Nabi Daoud mosque. Note the handsome carved mihrab (prayer niche facing Mecca), and the Crusader capitals of the columns. The Arabic inscriptions honor King David.
St Augustine (354-430) dismissed pilgrimages to the original sites of Christianity as having no relevance to one's belief. However St Jerome, his contemporary and Vulgate Bible translator, considered that praying at the place where Christ has been, was an act of faith and should be strongly encouraged. It is this opinion which prevailed.
Jesus was flogged and condemned to death in the upper city, in the area of the big still visible Herodian tower, popularly known as David's Tower (next to Jaffa Gate) and not in the Antonia Tower.
In this spot there is a rock, dressed with marble. Jesus body was placed on this marble when He was removed from the cross. Here Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus (secret disciples of Jesus), laid Jesus body and anointed it with myrrh and aloes then wrapped it in a clean linen cloth for the burial (Matthew 27: 57-59, John 19:39-40). Over the marble are lamps and candlesticks. It is under much discussion if the site is genuine (the Bible says these events took place outside of the walls), but the site has been a place of pilgrimage from about the year 350.
Entrance to the basilica after restoration (1997)
Pilgrimages have come to be recognised as a form of penance by the Catholic Church. Christian pilgrims from the various denominations are part of the scene in the holy places. But even those who have no religious motive for visiting Israel, will still find in this country special insights into spiritual experience.