Chapel of the Ascension (Jerusalem)

Chapel of the Ascension (Jerusalem)

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The Chapel of the Ascension is a shrine located on the Mount of Olives, in the at-Tur district of Jerusalem. Part of a larger complex consisting first of a Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 church and monastery, then an Islamic
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

, it is located on a site the faithful traditionally believe to be the earthly spot where Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 ascended into Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 forty days after his resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

. It houses a slab of stone believed to contain one of his footprints.

Early history

Shortly after the death of Jesus, early Christians began gathering in secret to commemorate his Ascension at a small cave on the Mount of Olives. The issuance of the Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan
The Edict of Milan was a letter signed by emperors Constantine I and Licinius that proclaimed religious toleration in the Roman Empire...

 by the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 Constantine I in 313 made it possible for Christians to worship overtly without fear of government persecution. By the time of the pilgrim Egeria's travels to Jerusalem in 384, the spot of veneration had been moved to the present location, uphill from the cave. The first church complex was built on this site around the year 390, construction being financed by Poimenia, a wealthy and pious Roman aristocratic woman. This church, Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

 in design was called "Eleona Basilica" (elaion in Greek means "olive garden", from elaia "olive tree," and has an oft-mentioned similarity to eleos meaning "mercy"). Most of this church and the surrounding structures were destroyed by the armies of the Persian
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

 Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 during the final phase of the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars in 614. It was subsequently rebuilt in the late 7th century. The Frankish
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 bishop and pilgrim Arculf
Arculf , was a Frankish Bishop who toured the Levant in around 680. Bede claimed he was a bishop , who, according to Bede's history of the Church in England , was shipwrecked on the shore of Iona, Scotland on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was hospitably received by Adamnan, the...

, in relating his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in about the year 680, described this church as "a round building open to the sky, with three porticoes entered from the south. Eight lamps shone brightly at night through windows facing Jerusalem. Inside was a central edicule containing the footprints of Christ, plainly and clearly impressed in the dust, inside a railing." The reconstruced church was eventually destroyed, and rebuilt a second time by the Crusaders
The Crusaders are a New Zealand professional rugby union team based in Christchurch that competes in the Super Rugby competition. They are the most successful team in Super Rugby history with seven titles...

 in the 12th-century. This final church was eventually destroyed by the armies of Salah ad-Din
Salah ad-Din
Salah ad-Din is an Arabic name that means The Righteousness of the Faith. It may refer to*Ṣalāḥ ud-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb, known in Europe as Saladin Salah ad-Din (also spelled Salahu’d-Din) (Arabic: صلاح الدين, Ṣalāḥ ud-Dīn) is an Arabic name that means The Righteousness of...

, leaving only a partialy intact outer 12x12 meter octagonal wall surrounding an inner 3x3 meter shrine, also octagonal, (called a martyrium or "Edicule") remaining. This structure still stands today.

Current structure

After the fall of Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (1187)
On July 4, 1187 the Kingdom's army was defeated at the Battle of Hattin by Saladin and only Balian of Ibelin commanding a small number of soldiers remained in Jerusalem. The Siege of Jerusalem lasted from September 20 to October 2, 1187. On October 2, 1187 Balian of Ibelin surrendered Jerusalem to...

 in 1187 the ruined church and monastery were abandoned by the Christians, who resettled in Acre
Acre, Israel
Acre , is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country....

. During this time Salah ad-Din established the Mount of Olives as a waqf
A waqf also spelled wakf formally known as wakf-alal-aulad is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically denoting a building or plot of land for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The donated assets are held by a charitable trust...

 entrusted to two sheikh's
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

, al-Salih Wali al-Din and Abu Hasan al-Hakari. This donation was registered in a document dated 20 October 1188. The chapel was converted to a mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

, and a mihrab
A mihrab is semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla; that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying...

 installed in it. Because the vast majority of pilgrims to the site were Christian, as a gesture of compromise and goodwill, Salah ad-Din ordered the construction of a second mosque nearby two years later for Muslim worship, while Christians continued to visit the main chapel. Though still under the control of Muslims, this mosque is currently opened to visitors for a nominal fee. Also around this time the complex was fortified with towers, walls, and guarded by watchman. The shrine and surrounding structures saw periods of non-use and disrepair over the next 300 years. By the 15th century the destroyed eastern section of the octagonal outer wall was separated from the rest by a dividing wall and was occupied by peasant houses and animal stables.


The main structure of the chapel is from the Crusader era; the octagonal drum and stone dome are Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 additions. The exterior walls are decorated with arches and marble columns. The entrance is from the west, the interior of the chapel consists of a mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 in the south wall. On the floor, inside a stone frame, is a slab of stone call the "Ascension Rock".

Ascension rock

The main octagonal ædicule surrounds the Ascension rock, said to contain the right footprint of Christ. The section bearing the left footprint having been taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque also known as al-Aqsa, is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem...

 in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. The faithful believe that the impression was made as Jesus ascended into Heaven and is venerated as the last point on earth touched by the incarnate Christ.

Burial crypt

The grounds also contain a burial crypt near the chapel that is revered by three separate monotheistic religions, although opinion differs on the occupant. Jews
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 believe it contains the 7th-century BC
Anno Domini
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....

In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

Huldah was a prophetess mentioned briefly in , and . After the discovery of a book of the Law during renovations at Solomon's Temple, on the order of King Josiah, Hilkiah together with Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah approach her to get the Lord's opinion....

, Christians believe it to be the tomb of the 5th-century saint Pelagia
Saint Pelagia
Saint Pelagia is an Antiochene saint, a virgin of fifteen years, who chose death by a leap from the housetop rather than dishonour from soldiers during the Diocletianic Persecution. She is mentioned by Ambrose , and is the subject of two sermons by Chrysostom...

; while Muslims maintain that the 8th-century holy woman Rabi'a al-Adawiya is buried there.

External links