Tag Archives: Crusader church

Nebi Samuel

Nebi Samuel Overlooking the ancient route from Beit Horon to Jerusalem (today highway <436>) is a tree-covered, limestone mountain (885 meters high) that gets its name from the Hebrew prophet Samuel who according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam is buried there. Another tradition, supported by archaeological evidence, is that this site is Mizpeh, where Samuel anointed Saul, the first King of Israel and where King Solomon made a thousand burnt offerings at the high-place of Gibeon – the biblical city of Gibeon is only 1.5 km north of the site, today the Palestinian village of el-Jib, behind the separation wall. Excavations, still ongoing, have uncovered the remains of settlements from both the First Temple (7th century BCE) and Second Temple (Hasmonean) periods.

Nebi Samuel, Second Temple

According to the Biblical text I Samuel 25:1 it says that “Samuel died and all Israel gathered and lamented him and buried him in his home(town) in Ramah”. If this site is Mizpeh, then there would be a problem. In the Byzantine period (6th century), Christian tradition said that the prophet’s bones were relocated here and a monastery was built at the site to honor Samuel. In 1099, during the First Crusade, the Crusaders saw Jerusalem for the first time from here and named the mountain, Mons Gaudi (Mountain of Joy). There is still a great view of Jerusalem but of course a much different view than what the Crusaders saw. As part of the fortress that they built there in the 12th century, was a Romanesque style church over the burial cave and a hostel for Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. When the Crusaders were defeated by the Arabs under Salah a-Din in 1187 the fortifications were destroyed. In the 14th century the Mamelukes converted the church to a mosque. The building and minaret we see today is neither Mameluke nor Ottoman (though the lovely inscription over the door is) but rebuilt by the British after WWI – in the heavy fighting between the Turks and British and aerial bombardment by the British for the strategic hill damaged the building. Jewish armies fought here, from forces led by Judah the Maccabi against the Seleucid-Greeks in 165 BCE to the Harel Brigade who failed to capture the mountain during the War of Independence (1948) but were successful in the Six-Day War (1967).

Preparation of moat

On the western side you can see a section of the moat that was never completed, the large blocks of limestone stand detached ready to be quarried. The path continues past a small Muslim cemetery through an orchard of old olive and fig trees to a spring, named for Hannah, Samuel’s mother, that flows out of a cave in the bedrock.

Hannah's Spring

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“Top Ten” Jerusalem Sites

The first 3 must see sites in Jerusalem are associated with the 3 monotheistic religions that make up Jerusalem’s religious fabric:

1) the Western wall (Judaism) built by Herod 2000 years ago during his renovation of the Second Temple,

2) the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Christianity) built originally by Emperor Constantine and extensively rebuilt by the Crusaders in 1149 and

3) the Haram el Sharif, with the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque (Islam) built originally in the 8th century by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik.

Here is my personal list of 7 other sites not to be missed. Add a comment to suggest sites you think should be in the “Top Ten”.

4) For a unique view of Jerusalem, take the Ramparts Walk starting at Jaffa Gate where you actually walk on the stone walls built in 1540 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent for a birds eye view of the city. Check out the 8 gates in the city walls, including the remains of the Roman gate below today’s Damascus gate.

5) Visit the Church of Santa Anna in the White Father’s compound, the ruins of a Byzantine church and a Crusader chapel resting on a dike between two pools (there’s no water in them today). This is where Jesus performed one of the two miracles he did in Jerusalem, curing the cripple of 38 years (John 5). There is also a complete Crusader church with incredible acoustics (try it out by singing Amazing Grace or other liturgical melody).

6) Visit the archaeological park at the Davidson Center and see the massive stones that were hurled down onto the Herodian street by the Romans and the steps to the Temple Mount where Jesus would have walked, the Umayyad palaces from the Early Arab period and Byzantine and Crusader ruins.

7) Reserve a Western Wall Tunnel tour and see a model of King Herod’s Second Temple (there is also a model up on the roof of the Aish HaTorah building and a model of Jerusalem in 66CE including the Temple on the grounds of the Israel Museum) and walk 488 meters under the city along the Western Wall on the Herodian street to the spot closest to the Holy of Holies, the holiest site to Judaism.

8) Tour the ancient City of David to understand the importance of water in the history of Jerusalem. Bring “water” shoes and a flashlight and walk 45 minutes through Hezekiah’s Tunnel a manmade canyon cut in the limestone with water up to your knees – quite an experience. The tunnel brought the water of the Gihon Spring to the Siloam Pool, inside the walls of the city. This is where Jesus performed the second miracle in Jerusalem, curing the blind man (John 9).

9) After extensive renovations the new Israel Museum has been open a year and one million people have visited – the Archaeology wing has been completely redone, the Ethnography section has been expanded and the Art gallery includes a new section on Israeli art. The museum includes the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts from Qumran are on display. Beside it is the 1:50 model of Jerusalem in 66 CE just before the Jewish Revolt against Rome which led to the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by TItus. Walk around and enjoy the Billy Rose sculpture garden designed by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

10) Take a guided tour of the Mahane Yehuda market or participate in a scavenger hunt. More than an outdoor vegetable market, it is a great place to walk around to get a feel for the characters and local cuisines of Jerusalem. You can request a detailed map of the market at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/map-mahane-yehuda-market/

Two Churches: Mary and Jesus

Two Churches: Old and New

In the Kidron valley is a church built on a rock cut cave that is the tomb of Mary, mother of Jesus. Through the centuries the cruciform (in the shape of a cross) church was destroyed many times but the facade and wide staircase descending to the tomb is from the Crusader period. On the left side of the staircase a chapel to Joseph, Mary’s husband, on the right a chapel to Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne; Queen Melisende is also buried there. Today the Greek Orthodox Church is in possession of the shrine, sharing it with the Armenian Apostolic Church (the Syriacs, the Copts, and the Abyssinians have minor rights). A niche on the southern wall is a mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca, installed when Muslims had joint rights to the church.

In a courtyard off the Via Dolorosa in the Old City is a small church that reminds me of the Crusader church. The Church of the Flagellation, marks the Second Station of the Cross, where according to tradition, Roman soldiers flogged Jesus and placed a crown of thorns on his head after he was brought to Pontius Pilate. The architect, Antonio Barluzzi, rebuilt this church in 1929, in medieval style over ancient ruins. Barluzzi designs churches so that the style and decoration preserve the history and recall the events that happened at the site. The facade has one central opening with a Crusader style pillow-shaped arch that incorporates a crown of thorns. There are 10 icons under the roof, a crown of thorns, two representations of a cat of nine tails (see if you can recognize the others, for example there is an image of a rooster and 3 stars*). The floor is made of small, inlaid colored stones in geometric patterns.

Probably the most impressive part of the church are three large stained glass windows: on the left, Pilate washing his hands of the affair, on the right, the victory cry of Barabbas, in front, the flogging of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns amidst the soldiers. Above is a dome in gold mosaic and decorated with a crown of thorns intertwined with flowers.

 

Click on the thumbnails above to display a larger image (these are quite incredible stained glass images). Included below is a closeup of the dome.

Near the church of the Tomb of Mary are two other Barluzzi churches, the Church of the Agony at Gethsemane, also known as All Nations and the Franciscan chapel farther up the Mount of Olives, Dominus Flevit. You can contact me about arranging a tour to visit Barluzzi churches including:

  1. St Veronica Church, VI Station of Via Dolorosa
  2. Chapel, XI Station in Church of Holy Sepulcher
  3. Church of Visitation, Ein Kerem
  4. Church of Lazarus, Bethpage
  5. Mount of Beatitudes, Galilee
  6. Church of Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

* Rooster and 3 stars refer to Jesus’ prophecy at Gethsemane that Peter will deny him 3 times before the cock crows