“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” (Song of Songs 4:12)
Imagine taking a walk in the Hortus Conclusus – the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs – the place, where according to the legend, the biblical king Solomon disported himself among the flourishing gardens.
The building is located within the village of Artas, situated on the edge of Bethlehem and just next to the famous Solomon Pools. The location and surrounding area are breathtaking, particularly during the spring months when the surrounding mountains surrounding are richly green and the olive trees are blooming.
A picturesque stone bridge stretching over the verdant Artas Valley leads to the Convent of Hortus Conclusus which derives its name from the Song of Songs’ enclosed garden.
The convent is inhabited by an Italian order of nuns which was established in Latin America. It was built more than hundred years ago (in 1901) by engineers from Bethlehem of Morcos family, at the request of Mgr. Soler Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.
The Feast of Our Lady of the Garden
Traditionally, each year on the second Sunday of September, the parishes of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour gather at the sanctuary to pray and celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Garden.
This year, on Sunday of 9th of September 2012, the solemn mass was led by Bishop William Shomali and was accompanied by the beautiful male choir.
Many of the faithful of different Christian denominations participated in the grand Marial procession. During the march a flowered statue of Our Lady of the Garden was carried. At the end of the ceremony, Bishop Shomali blessed everyone in front of the church. He concluded the gathering by inviting everyone for a sweet treat prepared by the sisters of Artas.
Planning your visit:
– The Oasis of Spirituality: Hortus Conclusus’ Pilgrim House
The Sisters of Our Lady of the Garden offer accommodations for anyone seeking an alternative and spiritual experience during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Pilgrim House of Hortus Conclusus, opened in March 2012, and is a perfect place for prayer and reflection, ideal for taking a spiritual break and offers leisurely walking in the nature. Off the beaten path from everyday life, the oasis of spirituality of the Monastery of the Hortus Conclusus provides a welcoming respite for anyone seeking to enjoy a few days of rest, meditation, quiet or a similar spiritual environment.
The sisters invite anyone to this space of silence, and specifically reaches out to those seeking a transformative pilgrimage experience that provides a real opportunity for prayer and connection with God.
The facility includes 35 beds (icluding 6 double rooms) along with meals and possibility of transportation to Bethlehem.
Rate per night, per person: 35 € – B&B, : 40 € – including breakfast and lunch. To contact the sisters call: 00972 (0) 2 – 274 24 27. A booking for groups can be made with help of Travelujah.
– Solomon Pools:
Solomon’s Pools is an ancient system of three cisterns for collecting water named after the Biblical verses of King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes: “I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees” (2:6) However, recent discoveries point that the lowest pool was perhaps constructed during the Maccabean period (circa 2 B.C.) and the second phase occurred under the Roman Empire (1 A.D.). The site is located within the Artas Valley and is about a 20 minute walk from the convent.
-How to get there?
As the place is a bit remote from Bethlehem’s Manger Square, it might be the easiest to take a taxi. One way ride should cost around 15-20 NIS.
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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.