The Tomb of the Virgin Mary Church, our next station in this trail, is located a few meters from the Gethsemane Church. A few steps descend towards an open courtyard in front of the church entrance.
The Tomb of the Virgin Mary Church is one of the old, famous churches of Jerusalem. It is believed that the tomb of Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ, is located in the church. The origin of the church dates back to the end of the 7th century, but it seems to have been demolished during the Persian conquest and rebuilt later on.
Church Plan and Tombs
The present building is attributed to the year 1130 AD, during the Franks era. It is characterized by a unique plan which reflects the limitations of the location and its topography, with the building located on the slope of the Qadron valley, which resulted in bridging the elevation with a group of wide steps leading to the church’s long hall, with each side ending with an arch. The church includes the tomb of Queen Melisande, the daughterand husband of the Frankish kings of Jerusalem, located to the left after descending a few steps. Facing it is the tomb of Baldwin, the Crusader king of Jerusalem.
Virgin Mary’s Status in the Eastern Church Traditions
This church immortalizes the status of the Virgin Mary in Eastern church traditions, which exalted her, and believe that she was buried in this location after being enshrouded in the Church of Dormition on the Prophet David Mount. The Eastern tradition connects Christ’s ascension with Mary’s ascension after her death. The church is co-owned by the Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and Mary’s tomb is located on the eastern side: a hollow, rocky mass, denoting Mary’s ascension to heaven. One can also see an Islamic mihrab (prayer niche) close by.
Virgin Mary’s Status in Islam
Virgin Mary, mother of Christ, holds a prominent and highly respectable status in Islam. The Holy Quran includes a Surah in her name: the only one with a female’s name. She is a symbol of purity. It is noteworthy that the church has a large mihrab (prayer niche) facing south, which indicates that a group of Muslims visited Virgin Mary’s tomb, prayed in the church and recited supplications in her memory. Mujir al-Din, Jerusalem’s historian, says that the tomb enjoys the attention of Muslim and Christian visitors alike. Nasir al-Din al-Rumi states that Virgin Mary’s tomb is a popular location among Muslims.
The prominent Sufi, ‘Abed alGhani al-Nabulsi, author of the famous book, ‘al-hadra al-unsiyya fi al rihla al qudsiyya’ (The entertaining presentation in the travels to Jerusalem), prayed in this mihrab in 1690 AD.