Monastery of the Cross (Jerusalem)

 

Monastery of the Cross was found in the 4th century by Eastern Orthodox monks who came here from Georgia in Caucasian mountains region.

 

 

 

Shalom Street, Jerusalem

Neve Granot

Tel. (02) 679 0961

Bus: 18, 31, 32

Open: 10am- 4pm Mon- Sat

 

History of Monastery of the Cross

Monastery of the Cross is situated in the Western suburbs of modern Jerusalem. According to local legends monks chose new location in a cave where a tree once grew. Locals believed that it was the tree that was planted by Lot mentioned in the Old Testament. He escaped here with his two daughters after his native town of Sodom (along with Gomorrah) were wiped off the map for their wickedness, while his wife was turned into a pillar of salt after she disobeyed God's order and turned around to look at the destruction of the cities. Local beliefs also claim that this tree was cut down to make a cross for crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This legend also gave Monastery of the Cross its name. The tree is now gone, but the cave is still preserved under the altar of the monastery Church.

 

In the 5th century the monastery was expanded with the funds provided by Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine who legalized Christianity in the Ancient Roman Empire. Dangerous position close to borders of the shrinking Byzantine Empire forced monks of the monastery to increase its defences. However it didn't prevent sacking and destruction of the monastery in 614 AD during Persian Invasion. Life in this religious complex soon was revived after the enemy left these lands. Monastery of the Cross grew and flourished in the 11th and 12th centuries. Additionally it held a theology school that was considered one of the best in the Christendom.

Monastery of the Cross was protected by thick walls, but even that couldn't save this Christian religious compound from violence in this unstable region. Muslims captured the monastery in the beginning of the 14th century and turned it into a mosque. In the 16th century the monastery was returned to the Christians and later transferred to the Greek Orthodox Church.

The interior of the Monastery of the Cross is well preserved despite many attacks, sieges and destruction. Its walls are still covered by frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries. One of the depiction allegedly carries a portrait of a famous Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli, who lived here at the time these paintings were made. He is also buried in the main abbey church.