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Highlights of Bethany in the Holy Land
Next to the Franciscan and Greek churches in Bethany one can find the entrance to what very well could have been the tomb of Lazarus. The Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany has long been venerated by Christians and Muslims alike, and a modern church dedicated to the resurrected saint stands on the site of much older ones. A very old staircase leads the visitor into what is left of the tomb, of which much has been destroyed through history most likely by past earthquakes.
Background Information on Bethany in the Holy Land
Bethany (Arabic: al-Azariyya) is a Muslim and Christian Arab village .Bethany is known as the village where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and in whose home, which he shared with his sisters Martha and Mary, the Master spent much of his time. Jesus was anointed at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany (Mark 14:3) and returned to Bethany after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:11). According to Luke 24:50, Jesus ascended into heaven near Bethany. The village is resting on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives and has since the time of Jesus had a very strong tradition for where the miracle took place. Today the spot is marked by a Franciscan church and a Greek Orthodox church close by, open to visitors.
Nearby Places of Interest
A village has been here since at least Roman times, and nearby was an Iron Age settlement that is believed to be the biblical Ananiah in the territory of Benjamin (Neh. 11:32) that is called Bethany in the New Testament (Beth Ananiah = Bethany).
There is no record of a church in Bethany in the 4th century, although both Eusebius the historian and the Bordeaux pilgrim (333) mention the tomb of Lazarus in a vault or crypt. Around 490 AD, St. Jerome recorded visiting the Tomb of Lazarus as the guest room of Mary and Martha, which is the Lazarium mentioned by the pilgrim Egeria in her account of the liturgy on Saturday in the seventh week of Lent.
This structure known as the Lazarium was destroyed in an earthquake and was replaced by a larger Church of St. Lazarus in the 6th century. The church was mentioned by Theodosius before 518 and by Arculf around 680, and survived intact until Crusader times.
During the Crusades, King Fulk and Queen Melisande purchased the village of Bethany from the Patriarch of the Holy Sepulchre in 1143 in exchange for land near Hebron. Melisande built a large Benedictine convent dedicated to Mary and Martha, extensively repaired the old church of Lazarus and rededicated it to Mary and Martha. She also built a new west church to St. Lazarus over his tomb; fortified the monastic complex with a tower; and endowed it with the estates of the village of Jericho.
The convent of Sts. Mary and Martha became one of the richest convents in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Melisande's sister Joveta was elected abbess at the age of 24. Afer the fall of the Crusader kingdom in 1187, the nuns went into exile. The new west church was probably destroyed at this time, with only the tomb and barrel vaulting surviving; the 6th-century church and tower were heavily damaged but remained standing.
The village seems to have been abandoned thereafter, but a visitor in 1347 mentioned Greek monks attending the tomb chapel. By 1384, a mosque had been built on the site. In the 16th century, the Mosque of al-Uzair (Ezra) was built in the Crusader vault, which initially made Christian access to the tomb more difficult. However, the Franciscans were permitted to cut a new entrance on the north side of the tomb and at some point the original entrance from the mosque was blocked (photo, right).
In 1952-55 a modern Franciscan church dedicated to St. Lazarus was built over the Byzantine church of St. Lazarus and Crusader east church of Sts. Mary and Martha. In 1965, a Greek church was built just west of the Tomb of Lazarus.
Hours of Operation
Open every day. Free admission.
8-11:45, 2-6 (closes at 5 in Nov-Feb)
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