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Dominus Flevit
the site where"The Lord Wept"

inside the chapel

Going uphill from the Kidron valley towards the Mount of Olives, a small church stands watch over the city of Jerusalem. It is called "Dominus Flevit" (The Lord wept) a very suitable place to indicate the location for the Gospel account of Luke 19, 37-42.

Many beleived that the site of Christ's weeping over Jerusalem was unmarked until the time of the Crusaders when they started to point out this site as remembrance of this event. With the withdrawal of the Crusaders their church fell into ruins. In 1518 a mosque existed on the site, presumably built by the Turks, but to the locals it was always considered a madrasah (school). The place was called el Mansouriyeh (the Triumphant) and also el Khelweh (hermitage). Unable to obtain the ruin the Franciscans bought a small property on the south side of the path leading up to the Mount of Olives and built a small church there in 1891.

In 1913 a Miss Mellon built a small house in front of the Franciscan chapel, and this passed to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who sold it to a Portuguese lady named De Mello. In 1940 the Benedictine Sisters, in hard straits, sold a part of the property to the Franciscans. The old boundary wall was moved to make the division. The Sisters were not content with the rather poor wall raised during the war, and so the Franciscans began the building of a more suitable one in 1953. The foundations struck tombs, and there followed an interesting excavation (1953-1955) of the whole property led by the late Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti ofm.

The finds were beyond all expectation. A tomb of the Late Bronze period gave finds which are important for the civilization of Jerusalem just at the time of its conquest by the Hebrews. A necropolis used from 136 BC to 300 AD produced a great amount of material. The necropolis had two periods each with different styles and cultures. The first, the earlier is characterized by Kokhim (ovenshaped) tombs running from 185 BC, while the second is characterized by tombs with an arcosolium belonging to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. With the Kokhim tombs are closely connected the sarcophagus and the ossuary; the first cut in hard stone (mizzi) follow the motifs of classical art, both in structure and subject, in close artistic relation with the Tombs of the kings and "Herod's" of the 1 cent. AD; the ossuaries, on the other hand in soft stone (kacooley) follow a local trade technique with architectonic and floral motifs.

On the ossuaries were found many more or less symbol signs (crosses, tau, Constantinian monograms) and 43 inscriptions (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) incised or traced with charcoal. Of interest is the recurrence of names common in the New Testament, as Mary, Martha, Philo the Cyrene, Matthew, Joseph, Jesus. For the religious, historical and artistic value of these tombs consult Gli scavi del Dominus Flevit by Bagatti and Milik, Jerusalem, 1968.

A Byzantine monastery was also found: this belonged to the 5th century together with a small church dedicated to St. Anne prophetess. This took back the christian piety of the site to the byzantine period. It was over these runs of the byzantine epoch that the Franciscans built in 1955 the present church designed by architect A. Barluzzi.

From here comes to our minds the indescribable spectacle of that spring morning, of that brilliant sun climbing up behind Olivet to the crystal clear sky and enveloping in its light the splendid city stretching over the opposite hills. The Herodian towers on Mount Sion glowed in the immaculate whiteness of their marbles; lower down, magnificent palaces follow one another in many lines like the various flights of steps of a huge amphitheatre; and finally in the foreground, the Temple, a marvel of antiquity, the Temple that rose majestically above the Valley of Kidron enhanced by its hundreds of monolithic columns, by its towers covered with precious marble, by its celebrated doors of bronze and by its golden laminae which reflected from every side the beams of the rising sun. Jesus sees all this; and also He sees what to others is hidden; He sees the Roman legions advancing from the north, to cast a trench about that deicidal city; He sees the columns overthrown the towers hurled down, the palaces smashed to pieces, the Temple consumed by fire and reduced to such a ruin that no stone upon stone was left. He sees thousands and thousands of Jews fallen by the sword and famine; He sees the fugitives scattered abroad among all nations, and His countenance grows sad, his eyes are full of tears, and from his lips come words of touching compassion.


CLICK ON IMAGES TO SEE A LARGER PICTURE
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The present chapel Inside the chapel View over Jerusalem
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Sculpted altar base Wine-press Byzantine mosaic
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Ossuaries Decorated ossuary. Constatinian Monogram
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Jewish tomb Detail of ossuary Stone ossuaries

THE FRIARS IN PILGRIMAGE AT THE SHRINE
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Created / Updated Monday, 18 October, 2004 at 7:54:01 am by J. Abela, E. Alliata, E. Bermejo
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