Mary's Tomb

Mary's Tomb

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Mary's Tomb is a tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

 located in the Kidron Valley
Kidron Valley
The Kidron Valley is the valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem which features significantly in the Bible...

, on the foothills of Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge in East Jerusalem with three peaks running from north to south. The highest, at-Tur, rises to 818 meters . It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes...

, near the Church of All Nations
Church of All Nations (Jerusalem)
The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church or Basilica of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before his arrest...

 and Gethsemane
Gethsemane
Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to Biblical texts, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night before Jesus' crucifixion.- Etymology :...

 garden, originally just outside Jerusalem. It is regarded as the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus by most Eastern Christians (many of whom refer to her as Theotokos
Theotokos
Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of Jesus used especially in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches. Its literal English translations include God-bearer and the one who gives birth to God. Less literal translations include Mother of God...

), in contradistinction to the House of the Virgin Mary
House of the Virgin Mary
The House of the Virgin Mary is a Christian and Muslim shrine located on Mt...

 near Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

.

History


Repairs necessitated by a flood in 1972 afforded the opportunity for archaeological investigation of the site. Bellarmino Bagatti
Bellarmino Bagatti
Bellarmino Camillo Bagatti was a controversial 20th century archaeologist and ordained priest .Among his writings was the book Excavations in Nazareth. Vol. II. From the 12th century until Today....

, a franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friar
Friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

 and archaeologist, performed the excavation, and found evidence of an ancient cemetery, which he dated to the 1st century; his findings have not yet been subject to peer review
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

 by the wider archaeological community, and the validity of his dating has not been fully assessed.

Bagatti interpreted the remains to indicate that the cemetery's initial structure consisted of three chambers (the actual tomb being the inner chamber of the whole complex), was adjudged in accordance with the customs of that period. Later, the tomb interpreted by the local Christians to be that of Mary's was isolated from the rest of the necropolis, by cutting the surrounding rock face away from it. An edicule was built on the tomb.
A small upper church on an octagonal footing was built by Patriarch
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

 Juvenal
Juvenal of Jerusalem
Saint Juvenal was a bishop of Jerusalem from about 422. In 451, on the see of Jerusalem being recognised as a Patriarchate by the Council of Chalcedon, he became the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, an office he occupied until his death in 458....

 (during Marcian
Marcian
Marcian was Byzantine Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially...

's rule) over the location in the 5th century, and was destroyed in the Persian invasion of 614. During the following centuries the church was destroyed and rebuilt many times, but the crypt
Crypt
In architecture, a crypt is a stone chamber or vault beneath the floor of a burial vault possibly containing sarcophagi, coffins or relics....

 was left untouched, as for the Muslim
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...

s it is the burial place of the mother of prophet
Prophet
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...

 Isa
Isa (name)
Isa is an Arabic name corresponding to Jesus in English. It is a common male given name for Arabs and Muslims.Arabic-speaking Muslims refer to Jesus as Isa, while Arabic-speaking Christians refer to Jesus as Yasu...

. It was rebuilt then in 1130 by the Crusaders, who installed a walled Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monastery, the Abbey of St. Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The monastic complex included early Gothic columns, red-on-green frescoes, and three towers for protection. The staircase and entrance were also part of the Crusaders' church. This church was destroyed by Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 in 1187, but the crypt was still respected; all that was left was the south entrance and staircase, the masonry of the upper church being used to build the walls of Jerusalem. In the second half of the 14th century Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friars rebuilt the church once more. Since 1757, the tomb has been owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, while the grotto of Gethemane has still been possessed by Franciscans.


The Church



Preceded by a walled courtyard to the south, the cruciform church shielding the tomb has been excavated in an underground rock-cut cave entered by a wide descending stair dating from the 12th century. On the left side of the staircase (towards the west) there is the chapel of Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph
Saint Joseph is a figure in the Gospels, the husband of the Virgin Mary and the earthly father of Jesus Christ ....

, Mary's husband, while on the right (towards the east) there is the chapel of Mary's parents, Joachim
Joachim
Saint Joachim was the husband of Saint Anne and the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican traditions. The story of Joachim and Anne appears first in the apocryphal Gospel of James...

 and Anne
Saint Anne
Saint Hanna of David's house and line, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ according to Christian and Islamic tradition. English Anne is derived from Greek rendering of her Hebrew name Hannah...

, holding also the tomb of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem
Melisende of Jerusalem
Melisende was Queen of Jerusalem from 1131 to 1153, and regent for her son between 1153 and 1161 while he was on campaign. She was the eldest daughter of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and the Armenian princess Morphia of Melitene. She was named after her paternal grandmother, Melisende of...

.

On the eastern side of the church there is the chapel of Mary's tomb. Altars of the Greeks and Armenians also share the east apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

. A niche south of the tomb is a mihrab
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...

 indicating the direction of Mecca, installed when Muslims had joint rights to the church. On the western side there is a Copt
Copt
The Copts are the native Egyptian Christians , a major ethnoreligious group in Egypt....

ic altar.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem is in possession of the shrine, sharing it with the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

. The Syriacs
Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Orthodox Church; is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church based in the Eastern Mediterranean, with members spread throughout the world. The Syriac Orthodox Church claims to derive its origin from one of the first Christian communities, established in Antioch by the Apostle St....

, the Copts, and the Abyssinians
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the predominant Oriental Orthodox Christian church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All...

 have minor rights. Muslim
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...

s also have a special place for prayer (the mihrab
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...

).

Tradition


The Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition
Sacred Tradition or Holy Tradition is a theological term used in some Christian traditions, primarily in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox traditions, to refer to the fundamental basis of church authority....

 of Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

 teaches that the Virgin Mary died a natural death (the Dormition of the Theotokos
Dormition of the Theotokos
The Dormition of the Theotokos is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos , and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 The Dormition...

, the falling asleep) like any human being; that her soul was received by Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 upon death; and that her body was resurrected
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

 on the third day after her repose, at which time she was taken up, soul and body, into heaven
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...

 in anticipation of the general resurrection. Her tomb, according to this teaching, was found empty on the third day. Roman Catholic teaching holds that Mary was "assumed" into heaven in bodily form, the Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

; the question of whether or not Mary actually underwent physical death remains open in the Catholic view; however, most theologians believe that she did undergo death before her Assumption.

A narrative known as the Euthymiaca Historia (written probably by Cyril of Scythopolis
Cyril of Scythopolis
Cyril of Scythopolis - Christian monk, priest and Greek historian of monastic life in Scythopolis in the early years of Christianity . Described seven lives of Palestinian saint monks after his arrival to the monastery of New Laura in 555...

 in the 5th century) relates how the Emperor Marcian
Marcian
Marcian was Byzantine Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially...

 and his wife, Pulcheria
Pulcheria
Aelia Pulcheria was the daughter of Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius and Empress Aelia Eudoxia. She was the second child born to Arcadius and Eudoxia. Her oldest sister was Flaccilla born in 397, but is assumed she had died young. Her younger siblings were Theodosius II, the future emperor and...

, requested the relics of the Virgin Mary from Juvenal
Juvenal of Jerusalem
Saint Juvenal was a bishop of Jerusalem from about 422. In 451, on the see of Jerusalem being recognised as a Patriarchate by the Council of Chalcedon, he became the first Patriarch of Jerusalem, an office he occupied until his death in 458....

, the Patriarch of Jerusalem
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

, while he was attending the Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was a church council held from 8 October to 1 November, 451 AD, at Chalcedon , on the Asian side of the Bosporus. The council marked a significant turning point in the Christological debates that led to the separation of the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th...

 (451
451
Year 451 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Marcianus and Adelfius...

). According to the account, Juvenal replied that, on the third day after her burial, Mary's tomb was discovered to be empty, only her shroud
Shroud
Shroud usually refers to an item, such as a cloth, that covers or protects some other object. The term is most often used in reference to burial sheets, winding-cloths or winding-sheets, such as the famous Shroud of Turin or Tachrichim that Jews are dressed in for burial...

 being preserved in the church of Gethsemane
Gethsemane
Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem most famous as the place where, according to Biblical texts, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed the night before Jesus' crucifixion.- Etymology :...

.

According to another tradition it was the Cincture of the Virgin Mary
Cincture of the Virgin Mary
The Cincture of the Theotokos is a relic of the Theotokos which is venerated in the Orthodox Church. The word "cincture" is sometimes also translated as "belt", "sash" or "girdle".-Tradition:...

 which was left behind in the tomb.

Authenticity



The Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 acknowledges that Virgin Mary lived in the vicinity of Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

, in a place currently known as the House of the Virgin Mary
House of the Virgin Mary
The House of the Virgin Mary is a Christian and Muslim shrine located on Mt...

 and venerated by Christians and Muslims, but argues that she only stayed there for a few years; this teaching is based on the writings of the Holy Fathers.

Although many Christians believe that no information about the end of Mary's life or her burial are provided in the New Testament accounts or early apocrypha, there are actually over 50 apocryphon about Mary's death (or other final fate). The 3rd century Book of John about the Dormition of Mary places her tomb in Gethsemene, as does the 4th century Treatise about the passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Breviarius of Jerusalem, a short text written in about AD 395, mentions in that valley the basilica of Holy Mary, which contains her sepulchre
Sepulchre
The rock-cut tombs in ancient Israel are a group of hundreds of rock-cut tombs constructed in Israel in ancient times. They were cut into the rock, sometimes with elaborate facades and multiple burial chambers. Some are free-standing, but most are caves. Each tomb typically belonged to a...

. Later, Saints Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis
Epiphanius of Salamis was bishop of Salamis at the end of the 4th century. He is considered a saint and a Church Father by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He gained a reputation as a strong defender of orthodoxy...

, Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

, Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

, Modest
Saint Modest
Saint Modest may refer to:*See Sts. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia for Saint Modestus, legendary educator of St. Vitus, martyr under Diocletian *Modestus, an early christian writer mentioned by Eusebius*Saint Modest , †489...

, Sophronius of Jerusalem, German of Constantinople, Andrew of Crete
Andrew of Crete
For the martyr of 766 of the same name, see Andrew of Crete .Saint Andrew of Crete For the martyr of 766 of the same name, see Andrew of Crete (martyr).Saint Andrew (Andreas) of Crete (also known as Andrew of Jerusalem) For the martyr of 766 of the same name, see Andrew of Crete (martyr).Saint...

, John of Damascus
John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest...

 talk about the tomb being in Jerusalem, and bear witness that this tradition was accepted by all the Churches of East and West.

See also

  • Dormition of the Theotokos
    Dormition of the Theotokos
    The Dormition of the Theotokos is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos , and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on August 15 The Dormition...

     (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theologies)
  • Assumption of Mary
    Assumption of Mary
    According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

     (the same event differently seen by the Roman Catholic theology)
  • House of the Virgin Mary
    House of the Virgin Mary
    The House of the Virgin Mary is a Christian and Muslim shrine located on Mt...

    , Christian and Muslim shrine on Mt. Koressos, Turkey

External links

  • Tomb of the Virgin Mary at Sacred Destinations provides a description of the interior and history of the site.
  • Jerusalem Mary`s Tomb at http://allaboutjerusalem.com
  • Assumptions About Mary (comments on the historicity of the site) at Catholic Answers
    Catholic Answers
    Catholic Answers, based in El Cajon, California, is one of the largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States. It publishes This Rock, a bimonthly magazine focusing on Catholic evangelism and apologetics...

    .