The Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem which is also known as Abbey of the Dormition is a church on top of Mt. Zion you have to visit. When touring Old Town Jerusalem just go and take a pick, its just outside Zion Gate. Besides the beautiful structure that can be seen towering high standing from Mt. Olives, it holds lots of beautiful mosaics and archaeological remains. In addition, there is an important Christian tradition linked to this location.
History of the Site
In the Byzantine period, a vast basilica was built on the premises called ‘Hagia Sion’ in the early 5th century. In addition, relics attributed to Saint Stephen were transferred to the church in December 415 CE. Moreover, the Basilica is shown in the 6th century Madaba Map. Sadly it was destroyed in the 614 sack of Jerusalem by the Sassanians. Today when you come to visit the modern church you can see some of the ruins which were recovered in 1899. The archaeological remains are on display on the lower level of the Dormition Abbey.
A monastic order known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion was established at the site in the 12th century, with a church built on the ruins of the earlier demolished Byzantine church. The 12th-century church was again destroyed in the 13th century, and the monks moved to Sicily.
The Modern Building of the Dormition Abbey
During his visit to Jerusalem in 1898 for the dedication of the Protestant Church of the Redeemer, Kaiser Wilhelm II bought this piece of land on Mount Zion for 120,000 German Goldmark from Sultan Abdul Hamid II and presented it to the “German Association of the Holy Land”. Conrad Schick reported about the event, describing the acquired plot of land and showing confidence that the remains of the ancient Zion Church would be discovered under the accumulated dirt.
According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper, that the Blessed Virgin Mary died, or at least ended her worldly existence. Both in Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a “sleeping” – or “falling asleep” – and this gave the original monastery its name. The church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition). In the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Christ’s mother was taken, body and soul, to heaven.
The present church is a circular building with several niches. Also, two spiral staircases lead to the crypt, the site ascribed to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Now out of regard for the nearby Jewish and Muslim sacred place of David’s Tomb; which occupies part of the ground floor of the Cenacle; where it has traditionally the Last Supper took place; the belltower is set far enough away that its shadow does not touch the tomb, and is therefore not directly accessible from the church.