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Jerusalem: A Walk Through Christian History - Part 1

12 September, 201312 September, 2013 0 comments Christian History Christian History

St. Mark's

Jerusalem is well known as a holy city with many significant sites for members of many religions. But as a licensed tour guide here, I am endlessly fascinated by the less well known places to visit. Everyone knows Jerusalem as the location of the final days of Jesus' life, and of some of his miracles as well. But there are actually so many churches packed into the square kilometer within the walls of the Old City, that I see Jerusalem as a living museum of Christian history!



Of course, the churches of the better known denominations are on many tourist itineraries. But there are also churches that belong to lesser known sects, even to many Christians. By visiting them in a short walk, one can trace the development of Christianity in general, and the various historic splits that have taken place in particular.


St. Mark's Church


There have been three major splits throughout Christian history, creating four main branches. The earliest split took place following the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, in the year 451. Four Eastern churches - Armenian, Syriac, Coptic and Ethiopian - split from the main church over a dispute about the divine and human natures of Jesus. These four are thus known as Non-Chalcedonian Churches.


St. Mark's Syriac Church, in the Armenian Quarter on Ararat Street, is one of the more interesting Non-Chalcedonian examples in Jerusalem. According to the church's traditions, it is located in the house that belonged to St. Mark the Evangelist's mother. They also believe that Mark was the man who the disciples followed to find a place for the Last Supper, and thus believe the church is also the "Upper Room," as opposed to most other traditions connected with the Cenacle on Mount Zion.


The church also contains an ancient icon of Mary that they believe was painted by St. Luke himself. It is reputed to have caused miracles. When I was there recently, Yostina the local guide even told me about a miracle that she experienced a few short months ago in which she had a long conversation with a visitor though neither of them spoke the same language.


(And on the subject of languages, Syriac refers to the Syrian Aramaic language of their liturgy, not the country of their origin. Notably, all four Non-Chalcedonian churches spoke languages other than Greek or Latin.)


Church of St. Alexander Nevsky


1054 marked the year of the "Great Schism," a famous cheap replica watches uk split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Greek-speaking Orthodox churches did not accept the primacy and infallibility of the Pope, which the Latin-speaking Catholics maintained. Unlike Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity is not organized under a single leadership. All Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, Romanian, etc.) are in communion with each other.


Alexander Nevsky is located a few short steps east of the Holy Sepulchre and in addition to the iconostasis and magnificent icons that are standard in Orthodox churches, there are a few unique parts of this church. When construction began in 1883, the builders discovered significant archaeological remains that were incorporated into the church. There is an arch dating to the 2nd Century which may have been used as the original entry to the (then larger) Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They also found an older Roman gate with a small, worn opening. The church considers this the "needle's eye" of the Judgment Gate. A piece of the rock of Calvary was purchased and placed next to it. Lastly, just right of the entrance to the church one can find a lavish room dedicated to the various Czars of Russia.

(This is Part 1 of this article. Part 2 will follow in a week or so, and will include two other interesting churches in the Old City, to finish our watches replica top walk through Christian History via Jerusalem's Old City. Check back soon!)


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Joel Haber is a licensed Israeli tour guide, based in Jerusalem. Originally from New Jersey, he posts regularly for Travelujah. He can be reached for all of your Israel touring needs at www.funjoelsisrael.com or via email at joel@funjoelsisrael.com


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I am a licensed tour guide in Israel. This blog will focus on sites and activities in Israel that you may be less familiar with. My website is located at www.funjoelsisrael.com



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