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The Feast of Assumption and the Tomb of Mary in Jerusalem

4 September, 20124 September, 2012 2 comments Jerusalem Jerusalem

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven is a common Christian belief saying that the Virgin was taken into Heaven. However, there are some disputes among the Christian fractions about the fact if that happened after her death or maybe still during her life.

The feast of the Assumption occurs annually on the 15th of August according to the Julian Calendar, and is followed by the Eastern Orthodox Churches, on the 28th of August.

During the holiday the Christians of the Holy Land and numerous pilgrims gather in the Church of the Mary’s Tomb in Jerusalem to celebrate it with a solemn mass.

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Tomb of the Virgin Mary

Tomb of the Virgin Mary, beside the Holy Sepulcher, is one of the two empty tombs venerated in Jerusalem, as we follow the dogmal belief that Mother of Jesus was assumed into Heaven with her body and soul.

The tomb, which might be dating from the 1st century A.D., is located at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in a Crusader church. The chapel is baisicly underground and can be reached by descending stairs from a square yard in front of it.

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Despite the fact that there are no accounts about the end of Mary’s life, many people consider the site as the actual tomb where Jesus’ mother was laid after her death.

The underground chapel dates to the Byzantine (5th-century) times and features a crypt partly carved out of a stone.

According to the 7th century’s records of the pilgrim Arculf, the ancient church consisted of two round levels with the lower one containing the tomb of Mary. However, when the Crusaders arrived to Jerusalem, they found the structure in ruins and they rebuilt the church in 1130 adding a Benedictine monastery. Queen Melisande was buried in the lower church  in 1161.

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After the Crusaders were defeated in 1187 A.D, the Islamic ruler Salah al-Din destroyed most of the upper church and used the stone to repair the walls of Jerusalem. The lower chapel remained mostly intact.

The site was then taken over by Franciscans and since the beginning of the 19th century it has been owned by Greeks, Armenians, Syriacs, Copts and Abyssinians. The Ethiopian altar is on the west apse and the altars of the Greeks and Armenians share the east apse. The only day in which Latins celebrate an official mass in the Mary’s Tomb is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (15th of August).

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Holy not only for Christians

The Tomb of the Virgin is also a holy site for Muslims. According to their beliefs, during the Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, the Prophet Muhammad saw a light over the place where Mary's tomb is located. In fact there is a niche south of the tomb that has a mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca.

Plan your visit

Check Travelujah’s tips before visiting  Mary’s Tomb.

For a better overview of the site, visit Mary’s Tomb as  part of a group or private tour you by using a licensed tour guide. Check this link for assistance in planning your tour.

* * * * * 

Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.


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Bethlehem is my new home since September 2010. This charming town in the Holy Land is definitely worth a visit! Discover Bethlehem with my blog :-) Other places are coming soon...


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