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West Jerusalem: Holy Cross Monastery, Mamilla, Herod's Family Tomb - April 26, 2004-05-30

Click on the photos to enlarge.

View of the Valley of the Holy Cross with the monastery in the middle.

The Monastery of the Holy Cross, built in the 5th-6th cent. A.D. It was rebuilt by a Georgian King in the 11th cent. Since then, it has been ransacked many times but never destroyed.

Sited far from the city center, the monastery still keeps today the general aspect of a fortress.

Fortified main gate to the monastery.

The church has been recently restored. A mosaic floor and wall paintings of good workmanship are preserved in it.

Above the main entrance on the inner side, there is a fresco flanked by two inscriptions--one in Georgian and one in Greek. The scene represents Mary with the Child Jesus enclosed in a circle. Below, the hand of God holds the souls of the deceased.

An Orthodox monk calls to prayer by playing the "simandro" in front of the church.

Behind the apse, an altar is found where a legendary tradition has been kept through the centuries.

This legend relates that the patriarch Abraham had Lot plant in this place the three staffs which were left with him by the three visiting angels (Gen 18:1-2). Lot was ordered to douse the three shoots with water from the Jordan River as a penance for his sins. The three shoots then grew as one tree as can be seen in the picture above. Rejected by King Salomon while constructing the Temple, the wood was at last employed for the Cross of Christ.

Returning back to the Holy City from the Monastery of the Holy Cross, along the roadside, we come across the Mamilla Pool with some nearby caves.

To the pool and to the caves is connected a memory: the slaughter made by the Persian army in 614 A.D. of many thousands of residents from Jerusalem.

The corpses were brought together in the caves and a church was constructed above.

This place is mentioned by several medieval pilgrims and the caves can still be seen today at the "Independence Park".

The area has been a cemetery throughout the following centuries till 1948. Many tombs from the Mameluke and Ottoman period are preserved.

Caves of the Mamilla. A: "Independence Park"; B. Caves with graffiti.

The Mamilla Pool as it is today.

The Mamilla is a huge artificial basin for gathering rain water and conveying it to the city through an aqueduct. Although no longer in use now, nevertheless, the rectangular basin still appears to be in good shape.

The historical cemetery was made part of the "Independence Park".

The most famous monument of the Muslim cemetery is the Alah al-Din bin Abdallah al-Kebeby Mausoleum, built in 1289 A.D.

South of the Mamilla Pool is the rock-cut Herod's Family Tomb (1st cent.)

In front of the tomb stands a huge round stone employed to keep the tomb chamber firmly closed.

The hypogaeum was carved deep into the rock bench. The Herod's Family Tomb is located inside a public park.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

External Links

Monastery of the Cross (aerial photo)

Monastery of the Cross (memorial altar)

Mamilla Pool (Past and Present)

The Herod's Family Tomb

 SBF main, Index

Biblical Escursions


1. City Walls (North)

2. City Walls (South)

3. City of David

4. Ophel

5. Jewish Quarter

6. Mount Zion

7. Armenian Quarter

8. Holy Sepulchre

9. Via Dolorosa

10. Probatica

11. North Jerusalem

12. Gethsemane

13. Mount of Olives

14. Ascension, Bethphage, Bethany

15. West Jerusalem

16. Ain Karem

17. Bethlehem

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Created/updated: Sunday, December 16, 2001 by J. Abela / E. Alliata / C. Pappalardo
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