JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Remains of the 'Kathisma Church of Jerusalem" (5th Cent AD). According to tradition, Virgin Mary rested here on her way to Bethlehem.

"Kathisma ('The Seat' in Greek)" or "The Church of the Seat of Mary", refers to a 5th Century Byzantine church discovered in 1992, near the Monastery of Mar Elias. Renewed excavations in 1997 revealed that the church was restored in the 6th century and later converted into a mosque in the 8th century and thereafter destroyed. The focal point of this huge octagonal shaped church is a flat protruding rock called "the Seat of Mary"; marked as the resting-place of Virgin Mary, while she was traveling from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on her way to conceive Jesus.

The church is 43m x 52m big and is one of the largest discovered in Israel. The whole church is surrounded by rooms with large beautiful mosaic floors having many floral and geometric designs. According to the 6th century "Life of Theodosius", Kathisma was built by a wealthy widow named Ikelia at the time of Juvenalis, Bishop of Jerusalem (450-458 AD). From the Crusader Periods (12th century), a cistern (Bir Kadysmu) in the area was noted as a holy site; it served as a refreshment and rest station for pilgrims traveling on the Jerusalem-Bethlehem road until the end of the last century. The church and its attractive mosaics belong to the Greek Orthodox Church and are at present not open to the public.

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