Mount Zion is hallowed for the Last Supper, the Apparition of the Risen Christ and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, all of which are said to have occurred here. It is also where long held tradition says the Virgin Mary lived after the death of her Son, and where she finally fell into her eternal sleep.
Today’s Church of the Dormition maintains this tradition, with a wall mosaic depicting the Madonna and Child in the apse and a cherry-wood and ivory statue of the sleeping Mary in the crypt. This magnificent modern edifice was erected in 1906 upon foundations well rooted in the past.
The title of Mount Zion originally meant only that area occupied by the city built by King David, but later tradition transferred the name to mean the ridge that overlooks the southwest corner of the Old City.
This hill was incorporated into the city during Hezekiah’s expansion in the 8th century BC, and like the rest of the ancient metropolis, Mount Zion was enclosed within the city walls during the New Testament period.
When Rome’s destruction of the city left one church standing on Mount Zion, early Christians heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah speak directly to them, “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”. Within a few centuries the small chapel had been transformed into the great basilica of Hagia Zion – Holy Zion, that became known as “the Mother of all Churches”.
The Crusaders rebuilt upon its ruins, naming their church St. Mary (or Our Mother) of Mount Zion, and included within it several chapels dedicated to these events, and one to the martyred St. Stephen.
*Great is the Lord, are greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole world, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. Psalm48 – The Beauty and Glory of Zion
It is told that when Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the walls as we know them in the 16th century, his two top city planners somehow forgot to include Mount Zion within the ramparts. Paying dearly for their mistake, the two unfortunate architects were executed.
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