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Church of the Paternoster

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Our Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:1-4)

The Church of the Paternoster is located next to the Russian Church of the Ascension and was first built to commemorate the Ascension of Jesus Christ. St. Helena founded the church in the fourth century and named it Church of the Disciples. It was also referred to as Church of the Eleona, which is Greek for olive grove.

At some point, the site for the veneration of the Ascension was moved uphill to the Chapel of Christ's Ascension. There has always been some dispute as to the exact location of the Ascension as it was never specifically mentioned in the Gospel.

Below the Church of the Paternoster is a grotto where Christians believe that Jesus revealed his “inscrutable mysteries” to his disciples, foretelling the fall of Jerusalem and of Christ’s second coming.

In 614, the Persians destroyed the church but the site was always remembered as being holy. And although the connection of the site with the Ascension was lost, the place became associated with prayer. Over the years, the cave became connected to the teachings of Christ, specifically the teaching of the conflict between good and evil.

The First Recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer”
From a reading of the Acts of John, we know that Jesus ‘taught’ in a cave on the Mount of Olives. Tradition tells us that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray at the site of the Church of the Paternoster (“Our Father” in Latin) -- and the first recitation of the “Lord’s Prayer” was here. In fact, a pilgrim from centuries ago wrote that he saw a marble plaque of the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew and Greek on the wall.

When the Crusaders arrived, they built a small oratory but the place was left in ruins in 1106. In 1152, the Bishop of Denmark rebuilt it and was later buried here with his butler.

Centuries later, the Princesse de la Tour D’Auvergne bought the land and started to search for the legendary cave. She also built a cloister on the site and in 1872 she founded a Carmelite Convent.

The Lord’s Prayer, written in 80 languages, now covers the church’s tiled walls, a most special way to venerate the origin of this meaningful Christian prayer.


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