“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD
from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2).
This is perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible mentioning Zion.
It is one of the names of Jerusalem and it gave the inspiration to
the denomination of the Zionist Movement.
The city or fortress of Zion is mentioned 19 times in the Bible.
Though it is not clear if the names refers to Mount Moriah,
place of the Temple, or today’s mount Zion. Many different religious
traditions relate to this place and it is sacred to the three monotheistic
religions. It contains the burial place of King David, the last supper
room of Jesus and his Disciples, a church dedicated to Mary and other
Christian monasteries and cemeteries.
There is also a synagogue and a yeshiva (orthodox Torah school).
Since early Christian period a few events stuck to this
location like the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the Pentecost
and in late period also the Assumption of Mary.
The first church was built here during the 5th century and
it was simply called the church of Zion. Each and every
chapel was dedicated to a different event that happened in
the area. Shortly after it was described in the Madaba,
it was destroyed by the Sasanian army.
Only during the late 19th century was a new church built,
dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was consecrated in 1910
as a Catholic German Benedictine abbey.
In the middle of the crypt, on the lower floor, there is a statue
of the sleeping Mary. Above here, the mosaic describes
main female figures from the Old Testament:
Eve, Miriam, Esther, Ruth, Judith and Yael. The main prayer hall hosts images of the Virgin,
Saints and Prophets.
The floor mosaic of the upper church, which our confrere
Mauritius Gisler designed and carried out in 1932,
can be read as a kind of confession of faith and story of creation:
Fußbodenmosaik der Oberkirche.
In the center, three concentric bands mark the center of
the creation. The light of the triune Godhead, his truth and
wisdom is carried out into the world by the greater and the
lesser prophets and the apostles and evangelists.
Additional bands are formed around the center until finally
the ends of the earth are reached – graphically and in letters
presented as the names of the twelve months and the twelve signs of the zodiac.
The entire circular presentation is surrounded with a quotation from the Book of Proverbs:
“From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth. When there were no depths
I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;
before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth.” (Proverbs 8:23-25)
“And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city
of David” (Kings 1, 2). The tradition that surrounds this
location as the Tomb of King David started in the middle ages
and not in biblical times. The place was first recognized by
Muslims and Christians and only at the 12th century by a Jew,
Benjamin of Tudela, with a certain doubt. The building served
in the past as a Mosque, the Minaret is still evident on the
rooftop. In Islam David is considered a prophet- Nebi Daud.
Lots of salvation miracles happened here to Jewish pilgrims
during the modern period. Between 1948 and 1967 this place
was the closest place to the old city, under Jordanian siege at
the time, that Jews could come and pray. Since 1967, the place
served, and still does, as an orthodox Jewish synagogue.
The space is decorated with verses from the book of Psalms,
written by King David. The Tomb is divided between the man and woman sections so it is accessible
Also called the upper room because of its location. Most of the Christian,
from all over the world, come to visit this place. It represent more or less
the location of the Last Supper or Passover meal of Jesus and his Disciples.
It is the same place of the Pentecost event, the descent of the Holy Spirit
upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, as described in
the Acts of the Apostles. The actual structure was built in the beginning
of the 14th century as the main monastery of the Custody of the Holy Land
(guardians of the holy places).
The room, probably served as the Refectorium or the dining room.
During the 15th century the Jews debated with the Christians:
who is the true owner of the property. Under the order of the Muslim regime,
the entire architectonic complex passed to the hands of a Muslim family.
The room was transformed into a Mosque. Till today some decorative elements,
from the different periods, are visible.
The grape vines, in the cornice of the room, represent the Christian elements of the Eucharist ceremony.
On the vaulted ceiling, in some of the decorative circles,
there are lambs carrying a flag or a cross.
This is the symbol of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.
Another Christian symbol is the Pelican, located on the capital
of a column. A female bird feeding her offspring off her own flesh,
that represents Jesus feeding his disciples with his flesh
and blood trough the bread and the wine.
There are two evident Muslim symbols in the room:
the Mihrab- the niche that shows the direction of prayer
to Mecca and the stained glass windows with Arabic words.