The Church of Pater Noster

The Church of Pater Noster is the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father. The Church is located on the top of Mount Olives and is open from 8am-noon, 2-5pm (Sunday closed). It is part of a Carmelite monastery built in 1872 and is also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona or the Church of the Disciples. The Byzantine ruins of this Church dates back to the 4th century and stands right next to the new Church.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, his mother, Helena, came to Jerusalem in search of sites that were associated with Jesus during his life. Helena was convinced that from here, Jesus ascended to heaven, and thus ordered the construction of the first Byzantine church at this site.

Hence was built one of the first three Churches by Constantine, the others being the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Today the land on which both churches and the entire monastery stand, formally belongs to France. It was an Italian woman, Aurelia Bossie, who on her second marriage wed a member of the French Royalty and became the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne. It was Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew who had converted to Christianity, who convinced her to purchase the property in 1868.  

Later in that same century, a pilgrim to the Holy Land named Egeria ( perhaps a nun) who is widely regarded to be the author of a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land ( 380 AD) referred to this church as the Church of the Eleona, which means the ‘Mount of Olives’ in Greek. Egeria based her reference on the Second Acts of John, where the existence of a cave on the Mount of Olives associated with the teaching of Jesus, in general, is mentioned. There is no specific documentation to state that the Lord ’s Prayer was taught at this spot.

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom … you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”Matthew 24:3-14

According to Egeria the Lord’s Prayer was taught at a site close by on which now stands the Church of the Ascension, on top of the Mount of Olives, which is under Muslim control. The first Byzantine Church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD but the memory of Jesus’ teaching remained associated with this site, and during the time of the Crusaders became exclusively associated with the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. In the New Testament, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ appears in two texts: a longer form in the Gospel of Matthew [6:5–13] as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and a shorter form in the Gospel of Luke [11:1–4] as a response by Jesus to a request by “one of his disciples” to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.”

The ruined Byzantine Church was rebuilt and then destroyed again. Even less remains of the more modest Crusader chapel, which was probably destroyed by Saladin’s forces in 1187.  In 1915 the ruined fourth-century church had been partially reconstructed but left unroofed and today it provides a good sense of how the original church was.

In the centre yard of the remains of the Crusader church, there is a grotto where it is believed Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.  In the ruins of the crusader Church one will find 140 colourful ceramic plaques bearing the Lord’s Prayer in different languages, including the Lord’s prayer  in Braille.

Fr Warner D’Souza

In Scripture:

Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:7-14; Luke 11:1-4

Jesus foretells his Second Coming: Matthew 24,25

Administered by: Carmelite Sisters

Tel.: 972-2-6283143

Open: 8am-noon, 2-5pm (Sunday closed).

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