The site of Christ’s ascension to heaven forty days after his resurrection is on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from the Old City of Jerusalem. The site is marked by a historic chapel. Luke 24:51 tells us that Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection.
The Chapel of Ascension
At the end of the 4th century, the site was established as the place of the ascension by Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena who was responsible for marking many biblical sites in the Holy Land. A Byzantine church was built here with a circular design; double rows of columns and an open roof.
The Byzantine church survived until the 7th century when it was destroyed by Persians. It was soon rebuilt and finally destroyed by the Arab conquerors in the 10th century. The Crusaders rebuilt the church in the 12th century basing their design on the earlier Byzantine structure. It too had two concentric circles of columns built on the surviving circular base of the Byzantine church.
In 1187, Jerusalem changed hands and Saladin turned the chapel into a mosque adding a stone dome and mihrab. The Ottomans later allowed Christians to continue praying here and the mosque was relocated to a building constructed adjacent to the chapel in 1620. In 1835 the Crusader structure was given a new roof and enclosed walls between the columns.
The chapel stands in an enclosed courtyard. Only slight changes have been made to the structure since the Crusader era. Not far from the Chapel of Ascension is the Russian Orthodox Church of Ascension in the At-Tur neighborhood. This is the site of the ascension according to the Russian Orthodox tradition.
The chapel holds a slab of stone bearing a right footprint. This is believed to be Jesus’ footprint left here as he stepped up to heaven. The left footprint in stone has been moved to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount.