Church of Mary Magdalene

| October 17, 2012 | 0 Comments
Pass it forward....Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest

St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church

The seven onion-shaped domes of the Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem bring a taste of Mother Russia to the Holy Land. Built in 1888 by Czar Alexander III, the seven gilded, rounded domes shimmer in the sun, while gleaming white turrets rise up into the sky, looking like something out of a storybook. This Mount of Olives landmark can be seen from far off in the distance. But it’s worth a closer look.

James Emery  CC BY 2.0 Church of Mary Magdalene: Golden Domes Floating On Air

James Emery  CC BY 2.0
Golden Domes Floating On Air

History of the Church of Saint Mary

Set amid placid gardens, the Church of St. Mary is decorated by a multitude of large paintings and Russian icons. Here stands the crypt of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, killed during the 1917 Russian Revolution, evoking the mournful memory of another time and place. There’s also a Jewish connection here: the tomb of Princess Alice of Greece, who offered safe harbor to Jews when the Nazis occupied her country.

Most of the Christian holy sites in Israel are very ancient, but this particular site dates back just a little over a century ago. Yet still, being here feels like stepping back in time and into a different country: the Russia that existed at the time of the Czar. This was a time when European royals asserted their primacy by having wonderful structures built in Jerusalem with the architectural elements and flavor of the lands over which they reigned.

The Church of Mary Magdalene honors the memory of the Czar’s mother, Maria Alexandrovna, named after her patron saint. The architecture is in the style of the 16th century churches that grace the city of Moscow. There is an extraordinary view of the Eastern Gate, also known as the Golden Gate, set among such biblical-looking olive trees and cypress.

Deror Avi  CC BY-SA 3.0 Church of St. Mary Magdalene: View from Below

Deror Avi  CC BY-SA 3.0
View From Below

At night, the sight of the church is breathtaking, with floodlights giving full expression to  each golden dome. The church almost appears to be floating on air above the trees, as if in an earthly embrace around the building. Part of the effect is due to the location of the site, situated atop the westernmost section of the Mount of Olives, perched above the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mary Magdalene, considered a saint by those of the Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Catholic churches, was believed to be present at the crucifixion. According to Christian tradition, Mary was one of just a few personages who witnessed the Resurrection, which was said to take place on the Mount of Olives.

Visiting the St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church

Today the structure serves as a monastery, home to some 30 nuns of the Russian Orthodox faith, from countries all around the world. The nuns are well known for their beautiful liturgical singing. The sisters spend much of their time painting icons and embroidering church vestments and other items used during church services. They also specialize in painting Russian-style eggs.

From afar, the church looks as though it’s sculpted out of marble. A closer look reveals that the chosen building material is gleaming white sandstone. Just above the entrance is a round mosaic in different shades of blue, showing Mary Magdalene dressed in flowing white garments.

Deror Avi  CC BY-SA 3.0 Garden at St. Mary's Church

Deror Avi  CC BY-SA 3.0
Cat in the Church Garden

Most visitors assume the interior of the building will be even more fabulous than the thrilling exterior. But actually, the interior of the church is rather plain Jane with simple brown walls, somewhat of a surprise after the beauty of the exterior.

Admission is free of charge, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Phone: 972-2-628-4371

Church of Mary Magdalene: Did You Know?

Princess Alice of Greece, buried in the Church of Mary Magdalene, is the mother of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth of England. Princess Alice asked to be buried here near her aunt, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Christianity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *