Description of the attraction
The Abbey of the Assumption is a Catholic monastery of the Benedictine order on the top of Mount Zion, dedicated to the taking of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavenly Glory.
In the New Testament nothing is written about the life of the Mother of God after the crucifixion and resurrection of Her Son. Some researchers believe that she spent the rest of her life in Ephesus, but most of the legends tell: Mary lived and died in Jerusalem. Three days after Her death, the Apostle Thomas, who was absent during the funeral, returned and asked to open the coffin so that he could say goodbye too. All saw only the burial shroud and felt a wondrous fragrance.
The dogma of the Catholic Church on the Ascension of the Mother of God does not refer to the Apocrypha, but says: "The Immaculate Mother of God, Ever-Virgin Mary, having completed Her life on earth, was taken in body and spirit into Heavenly Glory." It is not indicated where and how this happened, whether her physical death preceded the Ascension of Mary.
Eastern churches do not recognize the dogma of the Ascension, but, venerating the Mother of God, they always celebrate Her Assumption. Many pilgrims flock to the Greek temple of the Assumption of the Virgin in Gethsemane, where, according to legend, is the tomb of Mary. The Catholic tradition believes that the capture of the Blessed Virgin to Heavenly Glory took place on Mount Zion - where the abbey stands.
The local Basilica of the Assumption is young compared to many Jerusalem temples, it recently turned a hundred years old. But it stands on ancient stones. The first temple was built here in the 1st century. The churches erected afterwards were destroyed by both Persians and Muslims. In 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm II, during a visit to the Holy Land, bought this plot (a field full of rubble) for German Catholics. For 12 years, a monastery complex was built here according to the project of the Cologne architect Heinrich Renard.
The massive basilica building with four turrets around a conical roof and a bell tower with a helmet-shaped dome are visible from many points of Jerusalem. The bell tower is crowned with a weather vane in the form of a rooster, reminding that it was on Mount Zion, in the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas, that Peter's denial took place three times - before the cock crowed twice. Out of respect for the neighboring shrine, the tomb of King David, the high chapel was erected so that its shadow would not fall on the tomb.
The unusual beauty of the basilica is best seen if you walk along the alley leading from the Zion Gate. The narrow street ends - and the bulk of the temple suddenly rises in front of the visitor. The interior is no less impressive: austere gray walls, and only above the altar and in the chapels the mosaic shines in gold. An extraordinary chapel in the crypt, trimmed with ivory and ebony, is a gift from the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire.
In the center of the crypt is a statue of the Virgin Mary lying on her deathbed. The sculpture is made of cherry wood and ivory. Mary's robe was originally gilded and embellished with chased silver, but nothing survived after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The mosaic dome above Mary depicts Jesus opening his arms to His Mother, ready to take Her into Heavenly Glory.