WHAT TO SEE IN THE MONASTERY OF THE CROSS IN JERUSALEM
The Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem is a very interesting place. If it were closer to the old city, there would be no end for visitors. Today, the main tourists visiting the monastery are naturally Georgians or those who are called Russian in Israel, i.e. former Soviet citizens.
Visiting the Monastery of the Cross, we will pay attention to three things:
1. Medieval architecture
2. History of the Cross on which Christ was crucified
And of course, Shote Rustaveli and the Georgian tradition of the Monastery of the Cross.
Initially, the monastery belonged to the Georgian Orthodox Church, but with the weakening of Georgia and the seizure of Palestine by the Turks, during which there was a redistribution of church property, the Monastery of the Cross was transferred to the maintenance of the Greek Orthodox Church.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE MONASTERY OF THE CROSS IN JERUSALEM AND THE MAIN CATHEDRAL CHURCH
Most modern researchers believe that the monastery of the cross was founded by representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church between the 4th and 6th centuries AD, i.e. in Byzantine time. The Monastery of the Cross was destroyed and forgotten after the arrival of the Persians in Jerusalem in 614 AD.
With the establishment of the power of Christian crusaders in Jerusalem, in the 12th century, the monastery of the cross was restored by the Georgians. The powerful stone walls of the monastery are more like the walls of a medieval fortress. Until the 16th century, the monastery remained the center of the Georgian Orthodox community in Jerusalem. Georgian pilgrims were received here.
Shota Rustaveli's biographers claim that it was at this time that Rustaveli stayed in the Monastery of the Cross, sent with an embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the Crusader kingdom.
Inside the fortress walls of the Monastery of the Cross, the Georgians built a powerful one-domed church, which is supported by heavy stone rectangular pillars. There are not many such buildings of medieval architecture preserved in Jerusalem: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, the Monastery of St. Anna.
Here is the monastery of the Cross in this remarkable row.
The inside of the church is painted with frescoes in the Byzantine tradition; in the altar part, the iconostasis has been preserved, devoid of some of the icons. The inscriptions on the walls of the church in Georgian and Greek tell about Orthodox saints and past deeds.
Another notable architectural dominant appeared in the Monastery of the Cross already in the middle of the 19th century when the Georgians lost the monastery and it passed to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. We are talking about a lurid baroque bell tower, which does not fit in with medieval architecture, but to which everyone has long been accustomed.
THE HISTORY OF THE CROSS ON WHICH JESUS CHRIST WAS CRUCIFIED
The Monastery of the Cross was erected over the place where the tree grew from which the cross for the crucifixion of Jesus was made.
To the left of the altar, there is a passage to the place where, according to local tradition, this tree grew from cypress, Jerusalem pine, and Lebanese cedar grew together into one whole. Here on the walls, large icons are depicting the forefather Abraham, the righteous Lot, the Virgin Mary, and the crucified Christ. The priest of the monastery will be happy to tell you the amazing story of the Tree and the Holy Cross, with which the saints depicted on the icons are associated.
There are also gifts to the monastery brought from Georgia.
Pay attention, the main icon of the Monastery of the Cross is located above the entrance to the church; it depicts a miracle tree of three species.
SHOTA RUSTAVELI AND JERUSALEM
The story of Shota Rustaveli's stay in Jerusalem surfaced today in 1960.
First, an article by a foreign correspondent of the newspaper appeared in the Soviet press, referring to the book of the Greek monk Popandopolos, who lived in the early 20th century. The book told about the life, death, and burial of the genius of Georgian culture Shota Rustaveli far from his homeland in Jerusalem. The Georgians were so intrigued that in the same 1960 they sent three famous academicians of the Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR Akaki Shanidze, Georgy Tsereteli, and Irakli Abashidze to Israel. And, lo and behold, they not only visited the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, but first found on the column the place of the fresco lost in the 19th century, and then cleared a later entry and found an image of Shota Rustaveli and an inscription made in Georgian.
The text of the inscription in Old Georgian language:
“Shota, who wrote this, may God forgive. Amen. Rustaveli ”.
Georgian academicians suggested that under the image on the column of the temple of Shota Rustaveli there should be his grave, and only the refusal of the Greeks to carry out excavations did not allow finding the grave of the legendary author "The Knight in the Panther's Skin" at the same time. The grave has not been found so far.
Today in Georgia there are different opinions about where Shota Rustaveli was buried and whether he was in the Holy Land at all.
But ... the image of Shota Rustaveli in the image of an old man with a gray beard in rich secular clothes is wonderful, and I highly recommend visiting the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem, and it does not matter whether you are Georgians or not!
The monastery of the cross is not located in the old city but a unique place to visit for those who saw the main sites of Jerusalem, join me for a private Christian Jerusalem tour to see this amazing site.