Tomb of Lazarus and the house of Mary and Martha in Bethany

Bethany (its medieval name) is today called El Azaria (or the place of Lazarus) and is situated in the West Bank. It nestles on the south eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives about two miles from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. Bethany was the home of Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha. It is here that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John11:1-44). It was here that Jesus would often stop over (Luke 10:38-42). It was also in Bethany that Mary anointed the feet of Jesus in the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:1-13, Luke 7:36-50, John 11:1-44, Mark 14:3-9)

Several Christian churches have existed on this site dating back to the first one in the fourth century called the ‘Lazarian’ which was destroyed by an earthquake in the sixth century. The present yard contains a remnant of the mosaic floor of that Church. This was then followed by a larger Church which stood till the age of the Crusades.

In 1143 a Benedictine convent dedicated to Martha and Mary was built near the tomb of Lazarus. Today’s Church is dedicated to St Lazarus and was built in 1995. Also in 1965 a Greek Orthodox Church was built west of the tomb of Lazarus. The entrance to the tomb today is via a flight of 24 steps cut from the rock leading from the street level to the tomb.

One descends in to a small chamber which also serves as a place of prayer. One can see the entrance to Lazarus tomb which connected to his house. When the Ottomans took over Jerusalem they built the Al Ozaih Mosque and in the 16th century they blocked the entrance. It was the Franciscans who opened the entrance to the tomb that is used today. On the floor, covering the tomb was a rock that would have been placed over. A plaque from the first letter of St Paul’s to the Corinthians, Chapters 15: 54 and 55 remind the pilgrim that death has lost its sting.

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