Holy Land – Chapel of the Ascension

Chapel of the Ascension – Acts 1:9-11

Six hundred and fifty feet north of the Pater Noster Church(Our Father) is the Chapel of the Ascension which is also a mosque. The chapel sits on the top of the Mount of Olives. When St Helena came to the Holy Land she was shown the place where today stands the Church of the Pater Noster as the spot of the Ascension.

By the time the pilgrim Egeria’s (possibly a nun) traveled to Jerusalem in 384, the spot of veneration had been moved to the present location, uphill from the cave. Another tradition holds that it was  Egeria who in her detailed account of the Holy Land found two footprints in the rock which can be seen in the Chapel of the Ascension. (http://www.ccel.org/m/mcclure/etheria/etheria.htm

An aerial view of the Chapel on the top of the Mount of Olives

Right after this discovery a circular Byzantine church was built surrounding the rock on which was believed to be the footprint of Jesus. The Byzantine church was destroyed and rebuilt several times but finally destroyed in 1198 AD by Saladin who led the Ottoman (Turkish) army.

However while the Church was destroyed the central dome around the foot print was left intact by the Ottomans as there is a shared belief in the Ascension by the Muslims. The Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but raised to Heaven directly without Resurrection before Ascension (An-Nisaa’ 4:157-159). The mark that we see today is believed to be the imprint of Jesus’ right foot since the section bearing Jesus’ left footprint was taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle ages.

Inside the Chapel at the imprint of the foot of Jesus

The Chapel of the Ascension, as it stands today, holds only the sacred spot. What stands around it are the base of the columns, remnants of the Church built by the crusaders. The chapel that we see today includes several changes made by the Muslims. They sealed the area between the pillars of the shrine enclosing the foot print of Jesus and added a dome to the structure while adding a mihrab – a prayer niche in the wall facing Mecca.  A mosque with a minaret was added next to the Chapel in 1620 however the entire site remains in Muslim possession.

 Fr Warner D’souza

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