The Pater Noster Church is a Roman Catholic church located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is part of a Carmelite monastery; also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona. The Church of the Pater Noster stands right next to the ruins of the 4th-century Byzantine Church of Eleona. The ruins of the Eleona were rediscovered in the 20th century and its walls were partially rebuilt. Today, France owns the land on which both churches and the entire monastery are standing under the Ottoman capitulations.
More About the Church of Pater Noster
The 2nd-century Acts of John mentions the existence of a cave on the Mount of Olives associated with the teachings of Jesus. But not specifically the Lord’s Prayer. The modern Church of the Pater Noster is built right next to the site of a fourth-century basilica commissioned by Constantine I to commemorate the Ascension of Jesus Christ. It was built under the direction of Constantine’s mother Helena in the early 4th century, who named it the Church of the Disciples.
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”Acts 1, 9-12
The pilgrim Egeria is the oldest surviving source referring to it as the Church of the Eleona (Greek for olive grove) in the late 4th century. The church is mentioned by the Bordeaux pilgrim in the Itinerarium Burdigalense circa 333, and the historian Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine constructed a church over a cave on the Mount of Olives that had been linked with the Ascension. The church survived intact until it was destroyed by Persians in 614.
Pater Noster Church During the Crusader Era
The memory of Jesus’ teaching remained associated with this site. In fact, during the Crusades, it became exclusively associated with the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. In addition, the Crusaders built a small oratory amid the ruins in 1106, and a full church was constructed in 1152, thanks to funds donated by the Danish Bishop Svend of Viborg; who is buried inside the church. Furthermore, the Crusader-era church was heavily damaged during Sultan Saladin’s siege of Jerusalem in 1187. Eventually being abandoned and falling into ruin by 1345.
The Modern Church and Ruins Recovered
In 1851, the remaining stones of the 4th-century church were sold for tombstones in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The site was acquired by Princess Aurelia Bossi de la Tour d’Auvergne (1809–1889) in the second half of the 19th century, and a search for the cave mentioned by early pilgrims began. In 1868, she built a cloister and founded a Carmelite convent in 1872. A convent church was erected in the 1870s.
In 1910, the foundations of the ancient church that once stood over the venerated cave were finally found, partly stretching beneath the modern cloister. The convent was moved nearby and reconstruction of the Byzantine church began in 1915. The reconstruction was stopped in 1927 when funds ran out, and the renewed Church of Eleona remains unfinished. The French architect Marcel Favier [fr], who was put in charge of rebuilding the ancient church, arrived in Jerusalem in September 1926.
The tomb that Princess Aurelia Bossi prepared for herself during her lifetime stands at the entrance of the modern church. According to her last wish, she died in Florence in 1889, and her remains were brought to the church in 1957. The 19th-century cloister is modeled on the Campo Santo at Pisa, Italy. It separates the partly reconstructed Byzantine church, which stands west of it, from the small 19th-century convent church, which stands east of it.
Princess Aurelia Bossi’s tomb stands in the western lateral chamber of the narthex, on the right-hand side as one enters the church. The walls of the cloister, of the convent church, and the partially reconstructed Eleona church are all used to display plaques that bear the Lord’s Prayer in a total of well over 100 different languages and dialects.