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Chapel of Christís Ascension

He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)

Built in 390 AD by a Roman woman named Poimenia, this was the first church established to commemorate the Ascension of Christ. In 680, a pilgrim who visited the chapel described it as a round building open to the sky. Christians flocked here to see the sacred footprint; the last imprint Jesus had on earth before he rose to heaven.

Before this chapel was built, during early Christianity, worshippers venerated the Ascension uphill on the Mount of Olives in a cave, most likely because they were fearful of being caught. But after the conversion on Constantine to Christianity in 312, they were able to commemorate the sacred event at the site of the chapel.

In the 11th century, the Crusaders added arches and columns to the small chapel although it was taken by Salah al-Din in 1187. Since Islam recognizes the Ascension of Jesus, the Moslems did not destroy the chapel Ė they added a domed roof and used it as a mosque. They did, however, remove the left footprint of Christ, taking it the Al Aqsa Mosque in the middle ages.

Today the chapel serves as both a church and a mosque and is used by both Christians and Muslims. However there is also a tie to this spot in the Jewish religion. A burial crypt was found here and inside, a tomb that many Jews believe belongs to the 7th century BC prophetess Hulda (2 Kings, 22:14-20). In the Christian religion, the tomb is sacred as it is believed these are the remains of the fifth-century Saint Pelagia. And in the Islam religion, it is believed that this is the tomb of an 8th-century holy woman, Rabiía-al-Adawiya.

There are two other sites in Jerusalem that are thought to be the place of ascension. One is under the Paternoster Church built by Helena. The other site is the Russian Orthodox Church of Ascension. However, scripture mentions that Christ ascended to heaven near Bethany. If so, then all of these sites can be disputed.

Nonetheless, these holy sites are wonderful places to worship and meditate on the life of Jesus. For, according to the bible, Jesus Christ knew Mount of Olives well and spent much of his time here.


Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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