The Church of Ascension, Chapel of Ascension or Dome of Ascension stands on the Mount of Olives just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. The site has long been revered as the place where Jesus last stood before ascending to heaven however a number of structures have stood here over the years.
After Jesus’ death Christians would gather in a cave on the Mount of Olives to commemorate his ascension and not long after that a site near the cave became the accepted location of Jesus’ ascension. In 390 the Byzantine Eleona Basilica was built to mark the spot, the original church was destroyed in battle and in the 7th┬ácentury was rebuilt. At that time the church was described as being open to the sky, having three entrances and having eight lamps which shone through the openings at night. The third incarnation of the church after again being destroyed was by the Crusaders in the 12th┬ácentury. Although most of the Crusader structure was also destroyed, parts of the outer octagonal wall and the shrine which stood within are what remain today. Jerusalem fell to the Muslims in 1187 and the shrine was converted into a mosque with the addition of a mihrab. Christians continued to visit the site and the ruling Muslims built a second mosque nearby so that Christian pilgrims would have better access to the chapel. The Muslims made several other additions to the structure by building fortified walls and towers.
The shrine which remained is rather small measuring 3m┬▓ and the shape of the shrine is Aedicule or octagonal. The stone dome roof of the Crusader chapel was a Muslim addition to close what was once a chapel open to the sky. Inside you can see the Mihrab on the southern wall indicating the direction of Mecca.
At the same site you can see the 17th┬ácentury Zawiyat-al-Adawiyya Mosque to the right of the chapel entrance. Close by is an underground tomb revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians who all believe a different holy person is buried there.
It is believed that forty days after the death of Jesus he stood here before ascending to heaven. A stone slab in the chapel has a footprint which is thought to be where Jesus’ stood before ascending to heaven. This footprint is mentioned in historical records as far back as the 7th┬ácentury. The slab of stone is called Ascension Rock and features a right footprint; the left footprint is now kept in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount within the Old City.
Each year a Catholic mass is held in the chapel courtyard to celebrate the Feast of Ascension and the Latin Christian Church celebrates the event inside the chapel building.
There are two other churches on the Mount of Olives with the same name ÔÇô the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension and the German Lutheran Church of the Ascension.
Other sites in this area
Under the present Old City of Jerusalem lie layers of history and excavations have been conducted over the years […]
This Museum of the History of Jerusalem is also called the Tower of David Museum and is located in […]