Church of Saint John the Baptist

Jerusalem, Israel

The Church of Saint John the Baptist in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem is a small Greek Orthodox church. In its current form, most of the above-ground church dates to the 11th century, and the crypt to the Late Roman or Byzantine period (between ca. 324 and 500 CE). According to the Greek Orthodox tradition, the head of St. John the Baptist was held in this church.

The first structure, a north-south oriented trefoil building, was built sometime in the 4th-6th century and served for unknown purposes. It was damaged at the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 and then extensively modified. A source can be interpreted to mean that it was restored during the 7th century by John the Almoner, Patriarch of Alexandria.

By the 11th century the ancient structure had sunk to at least 3 metres beneath the street level, with its doors and windows blocked, and served as a storage place for goods and water. During this century, an organisation of Amalfitan merchants settled in Jerusalem and acquired the south-west corner of the Hadrianic forum, where they established a pilgrim hospice, complete with a hospital and a church. The new church was erected above the ancient structure, which became its basement and dictated the tri-apsed layout of the entire church. This church was tended to by Benedictine monks. In 1099, Crusader knights injured during the siege of Jerusalem were treated at the hospital and after recovering started here what was to become the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, named after the church, also known as the Knights Hospitaller. After the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187, the basement was apparently filled with debris.

At the end of the 15th century, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem acquired the church and most probably transformed the basement into a chapel, which according to excavator, Jean-Baptiste Humbert of the École Biblique, might well constitute the first time that the structure was used for a cultic purpose. During the 16th century the church was used for a short period as a mosque, but was soon recovered by the Greek Orthodox, who in 1660 build a large pilgrim hospice next to it. In the 19th century the crypt was cleared out, and an impressive reliquary was brought to light from the masonry of the altar.

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Details

Founded: 324-500 CE
Category: Religious sites in Israel

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Michael Montero (2 years ago)
I love that place with its personal ambiance and its strength for our souls ! Beautiful
Regis Firmin (2 years ago)
After having been four times to the church area in the past year, in different times and days of the week, I have never found it open - nearby salesmen says it doesn’t have regular opening times since the beginning of the COVID pandemics almost 3 years ago. In the last time I passed by, I did find open the compound area where people live (not the Church itself though) and managed to take these pictures.
pts pts (5 years ago)
Beautiful Church! Tiny ancient door with east-to-miss stop lintel are the only markers for this Church. Inside, a nice and calming garden with Nuns cloisters above. The Church is surprisingly big and very elaborate. It takes time just to slow down and take in the detail. Note:the Church Guardian Cat is actually quite Friendly!
Juber Ahamad (5 years ago)
Wow
BradJill Travels (6 years ago)
The Church of St. John the Baptist is one of the oldest churches in Jerusalem, with roots dating back to the mid 5th century. Historically, it has been a Mosque as well as a hospice during the Crusader period. However, presently it is a Greek Orthodox church. The exterior of the building is being restored at present, meaning it can't be accessed at Muristan. However, if you walk back to Christian Quarter Road, you'll find a small alleyway leading to the courtyard where the church can be entered and visited. You will notice a small sign which states that the church remains open from 9am to 5pm daily but closed on Sundays. Inside you will find darkly lit rooms decorated in early Christian and Greek Orthodox manner. Attractive chandeliers hang from a ceiling and there are nicely painted images to see. Heavily gilded iconostasis and entire walls lined with beautiful iconic images can be seen. The interior is small and can be conveniently enjoyed in 5-10 minutes if you are short on time. Overall, The Church of St. John the Baptist is an interesting ancient church that many seem to skip or not know about. We really enjoyed finding and visiting while sightseeing in the Christian Quarter and would gladly return if we were to visit the city again.
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