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Church of Mary Magdalene

Christian Sites in Jerusalem

The Church of Mary Magdalene is located on the Mount of Olives, directly across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount and near the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. The church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, is part of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene, a sisterhood established in 1936 by an English convert. Since the 1920s has been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR); an independent ecclesiastical entity until 2007 and part of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church since then.

The Construction of the Church of Mary Magdalene

So the church was built in 1888 by Tsar Alexander III and his brothers to honor their mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. In addition, it was constructed to David Grimm’s design in the traditional tented roof style popular in 16th- and 17th-century Russia. And includes seven distinctive, gilded onion domes. See the photo above!

The church is dedicated to Mary Magdalene, the companion of Jesus. According to the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene was the first to see Christ after his resurrection (Mark 16:9). Although equals, she is usually considered a crucial and important disciple of Jesus; seemingly his primary female associate, along with Mary of Bethany; whom some believe to have been the same woman.

The Interior of the Church

So contrary to the impressive exterior of the church seen from afar, the interior is quite modest and decorated with simple wall paintings and minimal furniture. Four portraits of Maria Magdalena adorn the sides of the tower.

Moreover, on the eastern façade wall of the church is depicted Mary Magdalene standing before the Roman emperor Tiberius with a red egg in her hands (Christian tradition tells that Mary Magdalene met the emperor and told him about Jesus and his miracles. But the emperor did not believe it, and then a miracle happened! The egg that Mary Magdalene brought him as a gift turned red).

The Town of Magdala
The Ancient Synagogue at Magdala

The other three paintings depict Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene in the town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee; Mary Magdalene remains beside the cross. Last is Mary Magdalene is the first to meet Jesus after his resurrection. The paintings are the brainchild of the painter Alexander Ivanov, a great Russian painter of the 19th century. He was commissioned, especially by Princess Elizabeth, for the church. What is considered as the remains of Mary Magdalene can be seen in the relic box.


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