Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem

Friday, 1 June 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  6 minutes

© Tango7174/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Tango7174/cc-by-sa-4.0

Abbey of the Dormition is an abbey and the name of a Benedictine community in Jerusalem on Mount Zion just outside the walls of East Jerusalem‘s Old City near the Zion Gate. Between 1998 and 2006 the community was known as the Abbey of Hagia Maria Sion, in reference to the Basilica of Hagia Sion that stood on this spot during the Byzantine period, but it resumed the original name during the 2006 celebrations of the monastery’s centenary. Hagia Maria Sion is now the name of the foundation supporting the abbey’s buildings, community and academic work.

The Byzantine basilica Hagia Sion was built under John II, Bishop of Jerusalem in the early 5th century. Relics attributed to Saint Stephen were transferred to the church on 26 December 415. The church is shown in the 6th-century Madaba Map. It was destroyed in the 614 siege of Jerusalem by Sasanian King Khosrow II. Its foundations were recovered in 1899, when architect and buildings manager of the Diocese of Cologne, Heinrich Renard (1868–1928), investigated the site. Connected with this is the thesis of Bargil Pixner of a pre-Crusader Church of Zion. A monastic order known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion was established at the site in the 12th century, with a church built on the ruins of the earlier Byzantine church. The 12th-century church was again destroyed in the 13th century, and the monks moved to Sicily. The order was eventually absorbed into the Jesuits in 1617 (the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Sion is an unrelated monastic order founded in 1843). The order was chosen as the namesake of the “Priory of Sion hoax” created by French esotericist Pierre Plantard during the 1960s.

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During his visit to Jerusalem in 1898 for the dedication of the Protestant Church of the Redeemer, Kaiser Wilhelm II bought this piece of land on Mount Zion for 120,000 German Goldmark from Sultan Abdul Hamid II and presented it to the “German Union of the Holy Land” (“Deutscher Verein vom Heiligen Lande“). According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper, that the Blessed Virgin Mary died, or at least ended her worldly existence. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a “sleeping” or “falling asleep”, and this gave the original monastery its name, the church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition). In the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Christ’s mother was taken body and soul to heaven. Renard delivered the designs and plans for the Abbey, the direction of construction was entrusted to the architect Theodor Sandel, a member of the Temple Society and a resident of Jerusalem. The foundation stone was laid on 7 October 1900. Construction was completed in only ten years; the basilica was dedicated on 10 April 1910 by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. The present church is a circular building with several niches containing altars, and a choir. Two spiral staircases lead to the crypt, the site ascribed to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and also to the organ-loft and the gallery, from where two of the church’s four towers are accessible. Out of regard for the nearby Jewish and Muslim sacred place of David’s Tomb, which occupies part of the ground floor of the Cenacle where it has traditionally been said that the Last Supper took place, the belltower is set far enough away that its shadow does not touch the tomb, and is therefore not directly accessible from the church.

The first monks had already been sent to Jerusalem in 1906 from Beuron Archabbey in Germany. They were interned for the first time in 1918-1921, after the end of World War I. In 1926 the monastery was raised to the status of an abbey within the Beuron Congregation. Between 1939 and 1945, the German monks were interned for the second time, and then for the third time as the result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The abbey was located in the Israeli-controlled territory on mount Zion, across from the Jordanian-controlled territory within the walled city. In 1951, the abbey was separated from the Beuron Congregation and placed under the direct supervision of the Abbot-Primate of the Benedictines in Rome. The community elected its own abbot for the first time in 1979. Since 1973 the abbey has been hosting an ecumenical year of study for outstanding students of theology from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The curriculum encompasses biblical, Eastern Orthodox Church, Islamic and Judaicstudies.

Read more on Abbey of the Dormition, Haaretz, 11 March 2019: Israeli Court Acquits Jewish Suspects in Jerusalem Church Arson Case, Times of Israel, 11 March 2019: Prosecution drops case against far-right activists in Jerusalem church arson and Wikipedia Abbey of the Dormition (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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