Jerusalem, Israel

This travel guide of Jerusalem is in three sections. First, visit the historic sites on Mount of Olives. Next, see the highlights on Mount Zion before touring the Old City. Finally, retrace the path of Jesus from condemnation to crucifixion and burial along Via Dolorosa.

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Old City from Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

1 Old City from Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem measures only .35 square miles yet contains several of the world’s holiest sites. Glistening on the right is the Dome of the Rock. The Foundation Stone inside is believed to be the junction of Heaven and Earth, where God created the world and covers the Ark of the Covenant. The blue dome in the center is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is where Jesus was crucified and buried. The silver dome on the left atop Temple Mount is al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. Muhammad arrived here during the Night Journey that began at Mecca. Intrigued? Join the 3.5 million people who visit the Old City of Jerusalem each year.

Rehavam Overlook, Rabaa al Adwaya, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Importance of Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

2 Importance of Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

The first two photos in this travel guide are a panorama of the east side of the Old City of Jerusalem seen from the Rehavam Overlook on Mount of Olives. The elevation of this historic hill is about a half mile. According to religious beliefs, Jesus prayed at Gethsemane (near the cypress trees) before being arrested and crucified the following day. After His resurrection, He ascended into heaven on this mount. At the base of the hill in the Kidron Valley is St. Stephen’s Basilica (center) where Saint Stephen was stoned to death shortly after Jesus died. Nearby is the Tomb of the Virgin Mary. This is only a teaser list. Keep reading for more places to see on Mount of Olives.

Rehavam Overlook, Rabaa al Adwaya, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

3 Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

Before leaving the Rehavam Overlook next to the Seven Arches Hotel, you will be awed by the Jewish Cemetery sprawling across Mount of Olives. The burial site exceeds 3,000 years. There are an estimated 150,000 graves. You can walk among a few of them. Also visit the Tombs of the Prophets. Sharing a complex of catacombs are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. They were three Hebrew Bible prophets from the 6th – 5th centuries BC.

Jewish Cemetery, Rabaa al Adwaya, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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4 Beliefs about Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

There are several beliefs about the Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives. First, at the end of days (Jewish Eschatology), the Messiah will arrive at the Golden Gate, also called the Gate of Mercy (next to trees). Everyone is buried with their feet toward Temple Mount because they will walk there after arising from the dead. All who lay here will be resurrected without the need for atonement. Notice the small rocks on the graves. There are at least a half dozen stories about how this tradition began. Regardless, it is now customary for visitors to place stones on a loved one’s crypt using their left hand as a sign of respect and mourning. Interestingly, foreign visitors to Mount of Olives frequently pocket small stones so they can place them on graves overseas. This act is said to allow the buried the same Day of Resurrection considerations as if they were buried in the Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery, Rabaa al Adwaya, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Chapel of the Ascension Edicule on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

5 Chapel of the Ascension Edicule on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

According to scripture, Jesus arose from the dead on the third day. Mary Magdalene was the first to see Him. There were ten appearances. On the 40th day, His eleven disciples watched as Jesus was lifted to Heaven from Mount of Olives. The Chapel of the Ascension is believed to be the site where Jesus’ presence on earth culminated. This 12th century dome is the Edicule. Inside is the Ascension Rock. The stone bears the right footprint of Jesus before He was raised to His Father.

Rabaa al Adwaya & E-Sheikh Streets, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Chapel of the Ascension Minaret on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

6 Chapel of the Ascension Minaret on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

The Chapel of the Ascension has a complex history. Early faithful secretly assembled at a nearby cave to celebrate the Ascension. In 313, Christians were allowed open worship. The first church was erected in the late 4th century by Helena, the mother Constantine the Great. The Church of the Disciples (also called Church of the Eleona meaning olives) was demolished in 614 during the Roman–Persian Wars. It was rebuilt again in the 7th and 12th centuries and subsequently ravished. After the Siege of Jerusalem in 1187, the Muslims converted the chapel into a mosque. This minaret was added in 1620. The Chapel of the Ascension remains under Muslim control to this day.

Rabaa al Adwaya & E-Sheikh Streets, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Church of the Pater Noster on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

7 Church of the Pater Noster on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

Across the street is the Church of the Pater Noster. Many believe Jesus preached at a cave located here. This is also where early Christians assembled to commemorate the Ascension. In 1152, the Crusaders built a church to honor the Lord’s Prayer taught by Jesus. It was attacked in 1187 and abandoned in 1345. A Carmelite convent and church were founded in 1872. In 1911, excavators found the Biblical cave. In celebration, funds were raised to reconstruct the Byzantine church commissioned by Constantine I’s mother. The project was only partially completed. This Roman Catholic church is controlled by the French. An interesting feature are marble plaques with the Lord’s Prayer translated in 140 languages.

Rabaa al Adwaya & E-Sheikh Streets, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Dominus Flevit Church on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

8 Dominus Flevit Church on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

The next stop on your tour of Mount of Olives is the Church of Dominus Flevit. The name means the Lord wept. This is a reference to the first Palm Sunday when Jesus predicted Jerusalem’s destruction. His prophecy came true in 70 AD. During the almost five-month Siege of Jerusalem, Romans sacked the city and killed an estimated one million people and enslaved 100,000 others. Architect Antonio Barluzzi designed the 1955 Catholic church in the shape of a teardrop.

Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Church of Mary Magdalene on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

9 Church of Mary Magdalene on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

Seeing seven gilded onion domes on Mount of Olives is initially surprising. But after spending time in Jerusalem, you begin to appreciate how important the city is to so many religions. The Russian Orthodox church was commissioned by Alexander III of Russia (reign 1881 – 1894) and completed in 1888. A convent was founded in 1936. Both are dedicated to Mary Magdalene. She was the constant travel companion of Jesus and considered by some as his only female and most beloved apostle. The Church of Mary Magdalene contains the bodies of two Russian saints: Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Sister Barbara Yakovleva.

Church of Mary Magdalene, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Olive Trees at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

10 Olive Trees at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

Gethsemane is a Hebrew word for oil press. This implies the olive trees grown along the ridge of Mount Olivet were harvested for oil used in lamps. At one time, the grove covered about 4,000 square feet. Today, there are eight knarred trees. Testing suggests they are 1,000 to 2,300 years old.

Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Jesus Praying Relief at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

11 Jesus Praying Relief at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

The historical and religious significance of Gethsemane is the Agony in the Garden. After the Last Supper, Jesus came here to pray. While begging to have the “cup pass me” and sweating tears of blood, His three disciples slept. After Jesus concluded with “Your will be done,” He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested by soldiers of high priest Caiaphas. This bas-relief in the Garden of Gethsemane portrays the fateful event.

Kirche aller Nationen, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Church of All Nations at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

12 Church of All Nations at Gethsemane on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel

There have been three churches built atop the bedrock (Rock of Agony) believed to be the site of Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first was a Byzantine basilica in the 4th century and the second was a Crusader chapel from the 12th century. The current one is the Basilica of the Agony. The Roman Catholic Church was designed by architect Antonio Barluzzi and consecrated in 1924. The façade is very attractive. Standing on columns are statues of the Four Evangelists (Mark, Luke, Matthew and John). Above them is a mosaic of Jesus along with the Greek letters for Alpha and Omega. They indicate He is the beginning and the end, as well as the link between God and humans. This is often called the Church of All Nations because a dozen countries funded the construction.

Kirche aller Nationen, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
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Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

13 Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel

You are probably eager to explore the Old City of Jerusalem. A good place to start is Mount Zion, located in the southwest corner outside of the city walls. Historically, Mount Zion referred to the City of David and also to Temple Mount. Since 70 AD, the name applies only to the Western Hill. Rising above the summit is the Abbey of the Dormition. The prominent sections are the bell tower of Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (right) and the Dormition Basilica (left). Adjacent places of interest on Mount Zion are King David’s Tomb (an empty sarcophagus) and the Cenacle (or Upper Room) where the Last Supper was held.

Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Israel
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Dormition Basilica on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

14 Dormition Basilica on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Israel

Two large basilicas stood on this Mount Zion site prior to the current one: Hagia Sion (Holy Zion) from the early 5th century until 614 and Santa Maria in Monte Sion (Our Lady of Mount Zion) from the early 12th century until 1187. Both were destroyed by invaders. In 1898, Wilhelm II, (German emperor from 1888 to 1918), purchased the land and sponsored the construction of Dormition Basilica. Construction was completed in 1910. The name Dormition means falling asleep. This references the belief that the Virgin Mary died and was taken to Heaven at this place. Make sure to walk down to the crypt to see the life-size sculpture of Mary laying with her arms folded as if peaceful with her death. Her tomb is at the base of Mount of Olives.

Dormitio-Basilika, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Israel
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Old City Walls and Zion Gate in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

15 Old City Walls and Zion Gate in Jerusalem, Israel

Admire the city walls before entering. The first defenses were erected at the end of the Bronze Age. When David became King of Israel circa 1000 BC, he constructed walls. They were ravaged in 587 BC. This cycle of building and destruction occurred several times for two millenniums. The current Walls of Jerusalem were constructed by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. They measure 2.5 miles long and average almost 40 feet tall. Zion Gate is one of seven into the Old City. It dates from 1540. Other names are King David’s Gate and the Jewish Quarter Gate.

Zion Gate, Hativat Etsyoni St., Jerusalem, Israel
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Four Quarters in Old City Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

16 Four Quarters in Old City Jerusalem, Israel

The Old City of Jerusalem consists of four neighborhoods called quarters. They are the Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim Quarters. They were created in the 19th century by ethnicity of the residents. That demarcation has since blurred. While exploring the labyrinth, it is hard to tell when you are leaving one quarter and entering another. Signs like this help. But it really doesn’t make much difference to the casual tourist. In this guide, you will start in the Jewish Quarter after entering through Zion Gate.

Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem, Israel
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Narrow Streets in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

17 Narrow Streets in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

Visiting the Old City is extraordinary. The cobblestone streets and alleys are a narrow maze. They are filled with residents of numerous religions and tourists of every nationality. Vendors bark to sell their hanging wares. Sounds ricochet off stone buildings and archways. A different smell is around every corner. And it is impossible to recognize let alone tour every historic site. The best advice? Wander while soaking up this unique ambiance. Groups of two or more are safe during the day. The area is well patrolled by armed police. If you want a structured visit, hire a knowledgeable guide.

Barkai Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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Cardo Maximus in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

18 Cardo Maximus in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

Pompey the Great conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC. This began a 675 year, almost continuous Roman dynasty despite frequent and sometimes devastating clashes. The city prospered, especially under Constantine I in the early 4th century and Justinian I in the mid-6th century. The Byzantine Period in Jerusalem ended in 614 after a conquest by the Sasanian Persians. Over time, this Cardo Maximus – the main Roman street through the city – was buried. The 6th century site, along with several Corinthian columns, was partially excavated in the Jewish Quarter in the late 1960s.

31 Habad Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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Hurva Synagogue in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

19 Hurva Synagogue in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

Hurva Synagogue is in the center of the Jewish Quarter. The name means The Ruin. This stems from a 15th century synagogue on this site that was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1720. An 1864 replacement was similarly crushed during the Arab–Israeli War in 1948. This new Hurva Synagogue was designed with a Neo-Byzantine style by architect Nahum Meltzer. The opening in 2010 was criticized by Palestinians and Jordanians. The modern, glistening structure shines like a beacon in the Old City.

Hurva Synagogue, Ha-Yehudim Street, Jerusalem, Israel
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Sidna Omar Mosque Minaret in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

20 Sidna Omar Mosque Minaret in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

There are about 30 mosques in the Old City. All of them are controlled by the Jordanians. Yet, it is a bit surprising to see a minaret towering over the Hurva Synagogue in the middle of the Jewish Quarter. Stranger still, this is often referred to as The Jewish Mosque. Apparently, the Sidna Omar Mosque was built by discontented Jews who converted to Islam in the 14th century during the late Mamluk Period (1260 – 1516). After the mosque lay fallow for almost a century, the Jordanians refurbished and reopened Sidna Omar Mosque in 2019.

Sidna Omar Mosque, Ha-Yehudim St., Jerusalem, Israel
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Palate Tempting Breads in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

Palate Tempting Breads in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

If you love bread, then you will thoroughly enjoy sampling an array of Israeli specialties in the Old City streets. Here is a short list. The most popular is pita. Malawach is thin-layered pastry crisped on a griddle (resembles a pancake). Laffa is a flatbread rolled over some delicious stuffing. Bourekas are a triangular pastry often filled with cheese and spinach, a perfect way to start your morning. Taboon is a Middle East baked flatbread covering shredded meat or hummus (looks like a small bubbled pizza without toppings). Krantz (which you may know as babka) is a sweet dough bread similar to a coffeecake. Finally, buy a Jerusalem bagel in a rolled-up newspaper and garnish it with za’atar.

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Burnt House Museum in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

21 Burnt House Museum in Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

In 70 AD, the Romans commanded by Emperor Titus (reign 79 to 81 AD) burned the Second Temple, destroyed Jerusalem and massacred countless thousands. 1,900 years later, an excavation team uncovered a home incinerated by the Romans. This was the Upper City residence of the wealthy Kathros family headed by one of 24 temple priests. Discovered among the charred ruins were plenty of artifacts. They are displayed in the Burnt House Museum along with exhibits about Jerusalem and family life two millenniums ago.

13 Tif'eret Israel St, Jerusalem, Israel
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History of Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

22 History of Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel

The crescendo of the Old City is Temple Mount. The best panoramic view is from the upper terrace at Rabinovich Square. You will be awed while admiring one of the world’s holiest places. Here is a summary of 3,000 years. The First Temple Period (960-586 BC) began when Solomon, the son of King David, built the Temple of God to enshrine the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments tablets. It was razed during the Babylonian Siege of 587 BC. The Second Temple Period started in 538 BC when Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, invited Jews to return from their Babylonian exile. The temple was reconstructed by 516 BC. Toward the end of the era, it was extensively embellished by Herod the Great, king of Judea (37 BC – 4 BC). An estimated 10,000 workers were involved in the 46 year project. In 70 AD, the Second Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans. All that was left standing was the Western Wall. There were futile attempts to build a Third Temple during the next 567 years. In 638, the Arabs conquered Jerusalem. They named it Madinat bayt al-Maqdis meaning City of the Temple. Upon the ruins of the former temple, they built al-Aqsa Mosque. The Farthest Mosque has been rebuilt, expanded or renovated ten times. The mosque holds 5,000 worshipers and covers 12 acres. The lead dome on the left covers the Al-Qibli Chapel. Muslims believe Muhammad traveled here from Mecca during the Night Journey in 621. On the lower right is The Davidson Center, an archeological park that has revealed Second Temple artifacts. Above is the Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives. On top of the hill is the Rehavam Overlook (in front of the Seven Arches Hotel) where the initial photos in this travel guide were taken.

Rabinovich Square, Jerusalem, Israel
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Dome of the Rock at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

23 Dome of the Rock at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel

The Dome of the Rock is the visual pinnacle of Temple Mount. The Islamic shrine was constructed in 692 – making it one of the oldest surviving Islamic monuments – and significantly rebuilt in 1023. The 65 foot wide dome is covered by an aluminum bronze alloy with gold. Dome of the Rock has historical and religious significance to Muslims, Christians and Jews. The name stems from the Foundation Stone inside. The Rock represents the spiritual joining of Heaven and Earth. This site is believed to be where God created the earth, where the prophet Abraham almost sacrificed his son and where Muhammad ascended into Heaven. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is maintained by the Jordanians. Non-Muslims are allowed controlled access. On the left is Bab al Silsila Minaret (built 1329), one of four on Temple Mount.

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel
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Western Wall at Base of Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

24 Western Wall at Base of Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel

The Temple Mount platform is on the Old City’s highest point (Haram al-Sharif). At the base is the Western Wall. This 1,600 foot stretch of limestone is the remains of the Second Temple built by Herod the Great (ruled 37 BC – 4 BC) and destroyed in 70 AD. An alternative name is the Weeping Wall because Jews are denied access to the Dome of the Rock. As a result, this 187 foot section of the wall is as close as they can pray near the Ark of the Covenant believed to be below the Foundation Stone. Jews consider the site to be the Holy of Holies.

Western Wall Plaza, Jerusalem, Israel
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Moonlit Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

25 Moonlit Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel

During one of your overnights in the Old City of Jerusalem, make sure to revisit Rabinovich Square. Few experiences surpass admiring al-Aqsa Mosque (seen here) and the Dome of the Rock glowing atop Temple Mount in the moonlight. Savor the moment. Think about the 3,000 years of religious and political strife. Consider the significant scriptural moments believed to have happened here including the creation of earth, God’s challenge to Abraham, the Arch of the Covenant and Muhammad’s heavenly ascension. You will sense why many people revere this as one of the holiest places on earth.

Rabinovich Square, Jerusalem, Israel
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Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

26 Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

Scholars agree the crucifixion of Jesus occurred in Jerusalem while the city was part of Judea, a Roman province ruled by governor Pontius Pilate (28 – 36 AD). Many other details are debated including the path Jesus took from condemnation to his death and resurrection. Yet you can follow a traditional route for about a third of a mile through the Old City called Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering). The 14 Stations of the Cross begin at Lions’ (or St. Stephen’s) Gate along the east city wall, initially wind through the Muslim Quarter and end at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. Your first stop is marked by this Monastery of the Flagellation bell tower.

Monastery of the Flagellation, Lion's Gate Street, Jerusalem, Israel
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First and Second Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

27 First and Second Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

There are two churches and a museum within the Monastery of the Flagellation. Collectively, they represent the first two Stations of the Cross after the trial and sentencing of Jesus by Pontius Pilate. The Church of the Flagellation marks where Jesus was scourged by Roman soldiers and crowned with thorns. He then took up the cross at the location of the Church of the Condemnation. Both Roman Catholic churches were built in the early 20th century.

Church of the Condemnation, Lion's Gate Street, Jerusalem, Israel
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Third Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

28 Third Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

Via Dolorosa turns to the left at Al-Wad Street. At this intersection, watch for an arch reading Armenian Catholic Patriarchate. This is the third Station of the Cross. The entrance to this 15th century Polish church is easy to miss because of the bustling shops encircling you. Inside is a small chapel with this painting of Jesus falling beneath the weight of the cross for the first time.

Via Dolorosa & Al-Wad Streets, Jerusalem, Israel
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Fourth Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

29 Fourth Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

Adjacent to the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate is the fourth Station of the Cross. In fact, there is a bas-relief for both stations almost side-by-side. This is the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. The name stems from where Jesus encounters his mother while carrying the cross. By Jerusalem standards, this chapel’s construction date of 1881 is relatively modern. Yet you will be intrigued by the Byzantine mosaic floor from the 5th century

Via Dolorosa & Al-Wad Streets, Jerusalem, Israel
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Fifth Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

30 Fifth Station of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

About 80 feet away, you will see a small sign reading Simoni Cyrenaeo Crux Imponitur. This is Latin for Simon, the cross is laid. These words represent where the Romans picked Simon the Cyrenian from the crowd and forced him to bear the cross for the exhausted Jesus. The fifth Station of the Cross is outside of the Franciscan Chapel of Simon of Cyrene. The popular pilgrimage ritual is to place your hand into the imprint where Jesus stabilized himself against the wall.

Al-Wad Street 61, Jerusalem, Israel
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31 Other Stations of the Cross on Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Israel

After station five, Via Dolorosa becomes a narrow, cluttered alley while sloping upward through the Christian Quarter. Along the way, stations six through nine are connotated by easy-to-overlook markers. They are often attached to chapels that are rarely open. The last five Stations of the Cross are located at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the stone belfry overlooking the courtyard. The Crusader bell tower dates back to the 12th century

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian Quarter Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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History of Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

32 History of Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel

You might be unimpressed as you stare at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the courtyard. This will change your mind. You are about to see the Rock of Calvary (or Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified. Also inside is His tomb. The existing complex consists of more than 30 chapels. This is the result of over two millenniums of evolution. In 135 AD, Roman emperor Hadrian built a pagan temple here. In 326, Constantine the Great replaced it with a church surrounding where he believed Jesus was killed on the cross and buried (he also commissioned a church in Bethlehem where Jesus was born). From 614 through 1808, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre suffered numerous occupations, fires and earthquakes. Each time, it has been rebuilt or restored. Before you enter, notice the wooden ladder on the second level. It symbolizes the Status Quo. This 1757 decree among six Christian communities agreed no changes – however small – can be made to nine Holy Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem without a consensus. So, the Immovable Ladder has stayed in place since last used by a mason in 1728.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian Quarter Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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Jesus Burial Mosaic at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

33 Jesus Burial Mosaic at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel

On the walls and ceilings of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are tens of thousands of feet of mosaics. Near the Stone of Anointing is a long and intricate one. The three-section artwork portrays the final Station of the Cross. One shows Jesus being taken down from the cross. Another depicts Him being wrapped in a linen. This section illustrates the body of Jesus being carried into the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian Quarter Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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34 Jesus Tomb at Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel

A sepulcher is a small room cut in stone for a burial. Hence, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre means the place where Jesus was buried. On the rotunda floor is the Holy Edicule encasing the tomb. The elaborate shrine resembles a small church. The single, east-facing entrance is carved from reddish marble and accented with Corinthian columns. In the first room, the Chapel of the Angel, a stone is displayed where an angel stood while announcing the resurrection. The actual tomb (Holy Sepulchre) is in the second, larger chamber. During an extensive renovation of the Edicule, archeologists examined the limestone and marble. They concluded the materials date from 345 AD.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian Quarter Rd., Jerusalem, Israel
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Suq Aftimos in Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

35 Suq Aftimos in Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

After visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, explore your surroundings. You are standing in the center of the Christian Quarter. For a unique cultural experience, immerse yourself in Muristan, meaning hospital in Persian. The name originated during the Crusader Period (1099 to 1187) when the area was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. Their mission was to build a hospital in Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims. Today, Muristan is a whirling web of shops and vendor stalls. On the site of a former crusader church is Suq Aftimos, built in 1902. The market’s impressive arches have an Ablaq design (alternating light and dark stones). Equally impressive is the fountain in the center.

Muristan St. 1, Jerusalem, Israel
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Church of the Redeemer in Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel - Encircle Photos

36 Church of the Redeemer in Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, Israel

There are about 40 Christian churches, monasteries and schools in the Christian Quarter. Many were sponsored by Europeans. An example is the Church of the Redeemer. The benefactor was Wilhelm II, the last German emperor and king of Prussia (1888-1918). This Lutheran Church of the Holy Land opened in 1898. It was constructed above St. Maria Latina, a former 12th century church. Even more interesting, remnants of homes and a street from the 2nd century were discovered below the church during the 1970s. You can tour this excavation. Also consider climbing the 178 steps of the 131 foot bell tower for the best elevated view of the Old City.

Church of the Redeemer, Muristan Road, Jerusalem, Israel
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37 Spices at Three Markets in Jerusalem, Israel

The Three Markets are a unique shopping experience you will not want to miss and will never forget. They are the Butchers’ Market (Souk Al Lakhamin), the Spice and Perfume Market (Souk al-Attarine) and the Goldsmiths’ Market (Souk Al Khawajat). The suqs (Arab for bazaars) are along three parallel alleys tracing the ancient Cardo (main north-south Roman street). They are dark, tunnel-like and active. This rainbow of spices is common. The mound of green resembling a Mayan pyramid is za’atar. The blend of herbs such as oregano and thyme are topped with salt and sesame seeds. The mixture is typically applied to pita bread along with olive oil.

Spice Market, Al-Attarin Street, Shuk HaBsamim, Jerusalem, Israel
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38 Tower of David in Jerusalem, Israel

Your tour ends at the Tower of David. Contrary to what the name implies, this is not the lost palace of King David (1010-970 BC). Instead, Herod I, king of Judea (37-4 BC), commissioned the stronghold. The misnomer is blamed on monks during the early Byzantine era (4th century). The Jerusalem Citadel was sacked and reconstructed several times. This tower is not one of the original three built for Herod the Great. Instead, it is an Ottoman minaret. Inside is the fascinating Tower of David Museum. The exhibits explain four millenniums of Jerusalem history. In the courtyard are ruins dating back 2,700 years. From here, exit the Old City through the nearby Jaffa Gate. Alternative names are Sha’ar Yaffo (Hebrew) and Bab al-Khalil (Arabic). The portal, leading into both the Christian and Armenian Quarters, was constructed in 1538.

Tower of David, Omar Ben el-Hatab, Jerusalem, Israel
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Jerusalem, Israel Composite of Six Photos - Encircle Photos

Jerusalem, Israel Composite of Six Photos

Six photos of Jerusalem, Israel: Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount seen behind barbed wire from Mount of Olives; The high mast and cables of Jerusalem Chords Bridge; The Third Station of the Cross where Jesus fell for the first time along Via Dolorosa; Flatbread stand in stone street of Old City; Jesus bound at wrists statue in Chapel of the Condemnation; and Temple Mount under moonlight.

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