Mount Zion is sacred to the Jewish people. It is dear to the heart of every Jew. Zion is a green hill on top of which passes the southern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is not only a place with ancient historical monuments, but is also a symbol of unity and of God’s chosen people of the Jewish nation. For many centuries, pilgrims and tourists have flocked towards Mount Zion to worship shrines or simply touch the ancient history of the Holy Land.
Mount Zion is located on the south side of the Old City, with the Zion gates of the ramparts facing their peak. The gentle green slopes of the hill descend to the valleys of Tyropeon and Ginnom. The highest point of the mountain is located at an altitude of 765m above sea level and is crowned by the bell tower of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Monastery. It is visible from different points of Jerusalem.
The name Zion dates back to more than three thousand years ago. Mount Zion changed its position on the map several times. Originally it was called the eastern hill of Jerusalem. The fortress built on it by the Jebusites bore the same name. In the 10th century, BC the Zion fortress was conquered by the king of Israel David and renamed in his honor. In these rocky caves, kings David, Solomon, and other representatives of the royal dynasty were buried.
During different historical periods, Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans, Greeks, Turks. The name Zion passed on to the various hills of Jerusalem. It was worn by Opel Hill, the Temple Mount (II-I century BC). In the 1st century AD e. this name passed to the western hill of Jerusalem. According to historians, it was associated with the destruction of the Jerusalem temple.
To date, the name Zion has been attached to the southern slope of the western hill, bordering the southern fortress wall of Old Jerusalem, which was erected by the Turks in the 16th century. The Zion Gate of the ramparts is at the top of the mountain. Most of the attractions of this holy place are located there.
For Jewish people, who due to historical reasons were scattered around the world, the name Zion became a symbol of the Promised Land, the home they dreamed of returning to. With the creation of the state of Israel, these dreams came true. Jews can now return to where Mount Zion is, and regain their lost historical homeland.
What to see on Mount Zion
Zion is not a shrine just for Jews. The historical roots of Judaism and Christianity are closely intertwined here. The name of Mount Zion is mentioned both in the national anthem of Israel and in the famous Christian song “Mount Zion, the Holy Mountain”, written at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, the sights of Mount Zion are associated with names dear to every pious Christian and Jew.
Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This Catholic temple on top of Zion belongs to the monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was erected in 1910 on a historical site – the remains of the house of John the Theologian, in which, according to church tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary lived her last years. Since the 5th century, Christian temples were erected on this site but were subsequently destroyed. At the end of the 19th century, the site was bought by German Catholics and in 10 years they built a temple, in the shape of which the features of the Byzantine and Muslim styles intertwined.
The temple is decorated with mosaic panels and medallions. The shrine of the temple is a preserved stone, on which, according to legend, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. It is located in the crypt and is placed in the center of the hall. On the stone lies a sculpture of the Virgin, surrounded by six altars with images of saints donated by different countries.
The temple is open for visiting and there is no admission fees
- Monday-Friday: 08: 30-11: 45, then 12: 30-18: 00.
- Saturday: until 17:30.
- Sunday: 10: 30–11: 45, then 12: 30–17: 30.
Not far from the monastery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Armenian monastery of the Savior with a church built in the XIV century. According to legend, during the life of Jesus Christ, a house was located here, where he was arrested before trial and crucifixion. It was the home of the high priest Caiaphas.
The well-preserved church has unique Armenian ceramics, which are richly decorated with floors, walls, arches. Painted tiles with all kinds of ornaments are made in bright and at the same time very harmonious colors. In the seven centuries that have passed since the construction of the church, the tiles have not lost the saturation of colors.
In the Armenian church are the Great Tombs of the Armenian Patriarchs, who at different times led the Armenian Church in Jerusalem.
The Armenian Church is open to visitors daily from 0900hrs-1800hrs
Admission is free
Peter’s Church in Gallicantu
Church of St. Petra is located behind the wall of Old Jerusalem on the east side of the mountain. It was built by Catholics in the early 1930s. It is built on the site where, according to legend, the apostle Peter renounced Christ. The word Gallicantu in the title means “cry of a rooster” and refers to the text of the New Testament, where Jesus predicted Peter’s threefold renunciation of him before the roosters shout. The gilded figure of a rooster is decorated on the blue dome of the church.
Previously, temples were erected and destroyed on this site. They preserved stone steps leading to the Kedron Valley, as well as a crypt – a basement in the form of caves where Jesus was kept before the crucifix. In the lower part of the church of one of the walls is attached to a rocky ledge. The church is decorated with mosaic panels of biblical themes and stained glass windows.
In the church courtyard there is a sculptural composition that reproduces the events described in the Gospel. There is also an observation deck from which one can take beautiful photos with views of Mount Zion and Jerusalem. The remains of ancient buildings are depicted below.
- The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu is open to the public daily.
- Opening hours: 0800hrs-1145hrs, then 1400hrs-1700hrs.
- The entrance ticket price is 10 shekels.
Tomb of King David
At the top of Zion is a Gothic building dating back to the 14th century. It houses two shrines of two different religious backgrounds – Jewish and Christian. On the second floor is the Zion’s room – the room in which the Last Supper took place as well as the appearance of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and some other events related to the resurrection of Christ. And on the lower floor there is a synagogue, in which there is a tomb with the remains of King David.
In a small room of the synagogue, there is a covered stone sarcophagus, in which the remains of the biblical king David are resting. Although many historians are inclined to believe that the burial place of King David is in Bethlehem or in the valley of Kedron, many Jews still come to worship the shrine daily. Entry lines are divided into two streams – male and female.
Entrance to the synagogue is free, but ministers are asked to make voluntary donations.
The chamber of the Last Supper is open to visitors daily.
- Sunday-Thursday: – 0800hrs-1500hrs (summer to 1800hrs),
- Friday – until 1300hrs (in the summer until 1400hrs),
- Saturday – until 1700hrs.
Grave of Oskar Schindler
There is a Catholic cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, where Oscar Schindler, who is known throughout the world for the film Schindler’s List, is buried. Despite being a German industrialist, during the Second World War he saved about 1,200 Jews from death by saving them from concentration camps, where they faced imminent death.
Oscar Schindler died at the age of 66 in Germany, and according to his will, was buried on Mount Zion. The descendants of the people he saved and all the grateful people come to bow to his grave. According to Jewish tradition, stones are placed on a gravestone as a sign of remembrance. The grave of Oscar Schindler is always strewn with pebbles, only the inscriptions on the stove remain free.
Interesting Facts about Mount Zion
- The earliest mention of the city of Jerusalem is not found in the Bible, but on ceramic tablets of the ancient Egyptians in the list of other cities, written almost 4 thousand years ago. Historians believe that these were texts of curses addressed to cities dissatisfied with the Egyptian reign. These inscriptions were of mystical significance, Egyptian worshipers wrote curse texts on ceramics for their enemies and performed ritual actions on them.
- Although Peter, after renouncing Christ, was forgiven, he mourned his betrayal all his life. According to ancient legend, his eyes were always red with tears of remorse. Each time he heard the midnight cry of a rooster, he fell to his knees and repented of his betrayal, shedding tears.
- King of Israel David, whose tomb is on the mountain, is the author of the Psalms of David, which occupy one of the main places in Orthodox worship.
- Oscar Schindler, buried on Mount Zion, saved 1,200 people, but much more people were saved. 6,000 descendants of the rescued Jews believe that they owe him their life and call themselves “Schindler Jews”.
- The surname Schindler became a household name, it refers to all who saved many Jews from genocide. One of these people is Colonel Jose Arturo Castellanos, who is called the Salvadoran Schindler.
Mount Zion in Jerusalem is a special place for Jews and Christians, it is a must-visit for all believers and those interested in history.