Pilgrimage to the Holy Land Part 2 – Jerusalem


Sunday 14th October:

Garden of Gethsemane.  The eight trees in this part of the garden have been carbon dated, and are some two thousand years old, so Jesus could very well have sat beneath these very trees.  The disciples fell asleep whilst Jesus prayer here.

Basilica of the Agony or the Church of All Nations, located on the east bank of Kidron Valley at the foothill of Mount of Olives.  The church contains the rock where Jesus prayed and sweated blood on the night before His arrest.   The church was built in 1924 and constructed with worldwide donations, and therefore one of its names is “the church of all nations.”

Church the Tomb of the Virgin Mary.   At the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is a Crusader church said to mark the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Centred around a quarried-out tomb that may well date from the first century, the cave church is festooned with hanging lamps and highly atmospheric.

Dominus Flevit.  We were truly fortunate to be able to walk part of the Palm Sunday route and celebrate our 11am Mass in the chapel of Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept for the fate of the City of Jerusalem.   The window at the back of the sanctuary gives the most amazing panoramic view of the Temple Mount. 

Last Supper Room.  The site of the Last Supper.   The room has changed in size over the years and been altered, but is it believed to be the actual site. 

Church of Dormition.  The hill of Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is dominated by the Church of the Dormition. The location is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died — or “fell asleep”, as the name suggests.  Down in the crypt, in the centre, under a rotunda, is a simple bier on which rests a life-size statue of Mary, fallen asleep in death. The statue is made of cherry wood and ivory.

Shepherd’s Field.  This is to be found in the east of Bethlehem in a village called Beit Sahur, where the Angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus.   There is a Greek Orthodox Church on the site, and a cave which could have been used by the shepherds as a place of shelter.

Monday 15th October:

Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.   Having started the day rather early (before 6am) we had walked the Via Dolorosa and prayer the 14 stations of the cross by 6.30am.   The final stations prayed outside the Basilica’s entrance with Golgotha in view through the window in the front of the building which was built in 1149 by the Crusaders. 

  • Golgotha, (Calvary), the place of the crucifixion.   We in turn knelt under the altar of the Greek Orthodox Chapel to touch The Rock, the actual spot of Crucifixion.   The Rock extends either side of the altar, and black discs mark the spot where the thieves who were crucified at the same time as Jesus died.
  • Stone of Anointing where the body of Jesus, having been taken down from the cross, was handed to Mary.   His Body was laid out on this stone and anointed with a mixture of myrrh, aloe and aromatic oils before being placed in The Tomb.
  • The Holy Sepulchre (The Tomb) is the holiest place in Christendom, and lies in the centre of the Basilica.
  • Two thousand year old rock fault – possibly caused when the earthquake struck as Jesus died.
  • Catholic Chapel of the Finding of the Cross which is beside the Chapel of Helena, where the True Cross of Jesus was found by her along with the other crucifixion implements (which are displayed in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in Rome).

Bethany.    A village near Jerusalem mentioned in the New Testament as the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and, according to the Gospel of John, the site of a miracle in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.   Commemorated today with a church called the Sanctuary of Bethany

Tomb of Lazarus.  Along from the church is the tomb which one can entre and climb down the steep steps to the place where the body would have laid. 

Mount of Temptation.   The Mount of Temptation, with a gravity-defying monastery clinging to its sheer face, is traditionally regarded as the mountain on which Christ was tempted by the devil during his 40-day fast.  The summit of the mount, about 360 metres above sea level, offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab and Gilead.  The Mount of Temptation is about 5km north-west of the West Bank city of Jericho.

River Jordan.  We were privileged to be able to renew our Baptismal Promises at the actual site on the River Jordan where John the Baptist carried out his ministry.   Two years ago, when we were in the Holy Land, this site was closed to the public as it was part of a military base.   Since then, the military have moved out and the site opened to the public.   The opposite bank of the river is the country of Jordan.  

Pater Noster.   The church stands on the traditional site in Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Emperor Constantine built a church over a cave here in 4th century. Plaques in the cloister bear the Lord’s Prayer in 62 different languages.

Saint-Peter-in-Gallicantu.   This is the place of the palace of high priest Caiaphas, where Jesus was brought to jail after his arrest. Its name (Gallicantu, means the cock’s crow) is given after the story of Peter’s triple denial of Christ and the cock crowing twice.   The underground jail conjures up all sorts of nightmare images of how awful it must have been to spend a night there, never mind knowing that it was to be your last night on earth. 

From here we travelled on to Bethlehem for 2 nights (see Part 3). 

Andrew Richardson