The Church of the Ascension is a Russian Orthodox Convent located on the Mount of Olives. According to Orthodox tradition, Jesus ascended to heaven from this spot 40 days after his resurrection. It is close to a chapel also honoring the ascension.
(Photo: Courtesy of AllAboutJerusalem.com)
Highlights of the Church of the Ascension in the Holy Land
The 64-meter high bell tower was built to symbolize the ascension and was the first Christian bell to operate in Jerusalem. The church’s bell tower dominates the Mount of Olives skyline and can be seen from the Old City and various sites across Jerusalem. A chapel behind the church is dedicated to John the Baptist, whose head, it is believed, was found in a jar hidden in a cavity under the mosaic floor of an ancient Armenian church.
Background of the Church of the Ascension in the Holy Land
On the church grounds is a rock, where Mary stood when Jesus ascended to heaven, tradition holds. The interior of the chapel contains a small cage marking the site where the head of John the Baptist was supposedly found in the 5th century after having been buried there by his followers in the 1st century. One of the paintings in the church illustrates the beheading of John the Baptist in prison (Mark 6:27).
History of the Church of the Ascension in the Holy Land
On the site of the convent were two Armenian churches from the 5th century one of which was named after John the Baptist. In both churches, mosaic floors were uncovered during the construction of the convent. Construction on the present Russian Orthodox convent and church began in 1870 and was finished in 1887. Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin initiated the project in order to expand Russian presence in the Holy Land.
Church of the Ascension in the Bible
Forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. After he addressed his disciples, he was taken up to heaven as they watched.
“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Luke 24:50-51
“He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11
The convent, which is inhabited by nuns, is open to the public only during limited hours or for organized groups.