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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

42) Greek Orthodox 'Monastery of the Cross', Nayot, Jerusalem. Legend has it the burial site of Adam's head from which grew the triplet tree (pine-cypress-cedar) that later supplied the wood to Christ's cross! The monastery has foundations from Byzantine era (5th century AD). See the legend explained in the first photograph.

Monastery of the Cross

Room of the Holy Tree

Bronze plate marking the spot where once the triplet tree stood.

Ancient mosiacs in the Church

Frescoes and paintings inside the Church (Originals from 13th Century)

The current monastery complex was built by the Georgian Orthodox community in 11th century and it remained a major center for the Georgians until 17th century. Since 1685, the monastery is controlled by the Greek Orthodox Church. The Crusaders also controlled the site in 13th century for a short period. The monastery however has a much earlier foundation. We know it was active at least from the Byzantine era (5th century). Traditions even attribute its establishment to Emperor Constantine or Queen Helena (4th Century). Of course the legend of the 'Holy Tree' was the reason why the place was revered so much among the Orthodox community. You can read the whole legend from the first photograph. The concept of the triplet tree in making the cross of Christ perhaps got evolved from Isaiah 60:13. The monastery was destroyed and the monks were murdered by the Persians (614) and Arabs (796). In the 13th century it was converted to a Mosque by the Mameluks, but was returned to the Christians in 1305.

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