At the very summit of the Mount of Olives stands one of the landmarks of Jerusalem - the belfry of the Russian Church of the Ascension. While most Christians believe that the place of the Ascension of Jesus occurred further to the south, where the remains of the Byzantine and Crusader Church of the Ascension have been persevered, the Russian Pravoslav Church had its own tradition, and in 18701880 the church, the bell tower and a hospice were built on the summit of the mountain. The Russians believe that the Ascension took place at the very spot where the tower stands, and that during the event Mary stood on a stone which is shown inside the church. The huge bell in the tower was made in Russia in 1885 and brought by boat to Jaffa. From there is was taken on foot to Jerusalem as an act of devotion by Russian women. Since 1907, when it was turned in to nunnery, the compound has been inhabited by Russian nuns.
Church of the Ascension (Mount of Olives) The site is identified as the place where Jesus ascended to heaven.
Ruins of a church mark one of the sites most holy to Christianity; the spot from which Jesus ascended to heaven (Luke 24:5051). It is located east of the main road which runs on top of the Mount of Olives, next to the Church of the Pater Noster. The original church was built on this spot in the 4th century. It was a rotunda with a double row of columns surmounted by arches, surrounding the rock from which Jesus is said to have ascended and on which he is belived to have left his foot print.
The Church of the Holy Ascension was taken by Saladin in 1187 and converted into a mosque and remains such today. It contains what is traditionally the last footprint of Jesus on earth before he ascended into heaven.
The Church of the Holy Ascension
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Crusader rebuilt it as an octagonal chapel, but after Jerusalem fell to Saladin it was transformed into a mosque.
There is no evidence that this Byzantine edifice ever had a roof. This church was not destroyed until the 10th century.
In the 12th century the Crusaders built a new church on the site. Like its predecessor the Byzantine church, it was designed as a concentric structure surrounding the rock. Its shape, however, was now octagonal and with columns supporting a dome. Over the rock was a small edicule. In the courtyard of this church was a monastery, and the compound was surrounded by a thick wall with crenelations and watch towers.
In those days, besides being a holy place, the compound also constituted a small fortress guarding the Jerusalem_Jericho road. While the church was destroyed at the end of the Crusader period, the edicule with its columns and very ornate, has been well preserved. The walls between the columns, however, are a post-Crusader addition.
(Russian) Church of the Ascension
Although only a few live there now days, they are renowned for their icon - painting in the best Russian-Byzantine tradition and for their beautiful singing of the Vespers every afternoon.
East of the Russian compound are remnants of a 4th-century Armenian Church where an exquisite mosaic floor has been well preserved. It is told that the head of John the Baptist was found in a hollow part of the mosaic floor, and indeed, under the floor is a burial chamber. At the edge of mosaic is an Armenian inscription: "this is the tomb of Blessed Susana, the mother of Artavan, September 18." this inscription was inserted in the 5th or 6th century into the earlier floor, and from it one can conclude that there was an important Armenian community in Jerusalem in those days.