Jerusalem Holy Sites
01 September, 2016
A Spanish Christian, New York Jew and Pakistani Muslim might seem to have little in common but, if we dig deeper into their cultural past, the city of Jerusalem is the fundamental origin of all three religions. This is the site where Jesus was crucified, where Solomon built his temple and where Muhammad went on his Night Journey. Far removed from the opulence of European cathedrals, Jerusalem’s places of worship are sheer simplicity. Christians, Jews and Muslims coexist in the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, an amalgam of religions which often leads to disputes and conflict. In short, Jerusalem is synonymous with religion.
The Via Dolorosa
The Via Dolorosa is the Way of the Cross along which Christ walked to the Crucifixion after being judged. The site of the 14 Stations of the Cross has changed over time and the route has also varied. Thousands of pilgrims make their way along the Via Dolorosa when visiting the city. The route starts at the Antonia Fortress and proceeds along King David Street, crossing the Main Souq and ending at Golgotha, the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the Crucifixion and burial of Christ are assumed to have taken place.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Holy Sepulchre is the last Station on the Via Dolorosa and it is here that Christ was buried in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. The original basilica was commissioned by the Emperor Constantine between 335 and 326 BC. After being destroyed several times and being gutted by fires and earthquakes, the church we see today is uneven in appearance and has several chapels and other spaces. In all, the church belongs to seven different Christian denominations, all of whom manage their own chapels, as well as the common areas. The two holiest sites in the church are Golgotha, where Christ was crucified – a spot you come across on entering the precinct – and Christ’s tomb.
The Wailing Wall
Possibly one of the most emblematic spots in Jerusalem, the Wailing Wall is the holiest site in Judaism. Thousands of Jews pray each day at the Wailing Wall, while both locals and tourists stuff notes bearing petitions and wishes between the stones. The Wall was once part of the retaining perimeter wall of the platform on which the Temple stood and is the closest spot to the Holy of Holies in that building – hence its importance to Jews.
This vast esplanade houses Jerusalem’s most striking building, the Dome of the Rock. Tradition has it that this is the spot where Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple both stood. This area on the south-east side of the Old City became a Muslim holy site when the Dome of the Rock was built in AD 691. Various other buildings have been erected since then and this is now the third most sacred Islamic shrine in the world. Standing alongside the Dome of the Rock is the other important building in the precinct, the Mosque of Al-Aqsa. Built in the 8th century AD, it is the main place of worship for Muslims in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, after the Second Intifada in the year 2000, only Muslims are allowed to enter these buildings, but at certain times the esplanade is open to everyone, so the mosques can be observed from the outside.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives lies on the east side of the Old City. It is the site of one of the oldest cemeteries in the world, as it has been in continuous use since the third millennium BC. Various places of worship stand here, notably the Chapel of the Ascension, built on the spot where Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Tomb of the Virgin Mary and, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Basilica of Agony, the site where Christ prayed before being arrested.
Mount Zion lies alongside the Mount of Olives. This mount is closely linked to The Last Supper and to King David, who is believed to be buried here. Hence it is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Following the death of Christ, the disciples started meeting here to pray in the Room of the Last Supper. Subsequently, they gathered around the stone where the Virgin Mary is said to have died. This is the site of the Abbey of the Dormition, commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II in the early 20th century.
Be sure to visit Jerusalem’s Holy Sites, as well as the rest of the city – check out our flights here.
Text by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
01 September, 2016