Cathedral of Saint James

Jerusalem, Israel

Nestled within a walled compound in the ancient Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Church of St James is one of the most ornately decorated places of worship in the Holy Land.

This ancient church, part of which dates to AD 420, is the cathedral of the Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, in AD 301, and Armenian Christians established the first “quarter” in Jerusalem.

The Church of St James is dedicated to two martyred saints of that name — St James the Great, one of the first apostles to follow Jesus, and St James the Less, believed to be a close relative of Jesus, who became the first bishop of Jerusalem.

According to Armenian tradition, within the church are buried the head of St James the Great (the rest of his body is believed to be in the Spanish pilgrimage shrine of Santiago de Compostela) and the body of St James the Less.

Most of the cathedral dates from the 12th century, though it incorporates the remains of two chapels built in the 5th century. This is one of the few remaining Crusader-era churches in the Holy Land to have survived intact.

The interior, under a vaulted dome, offers a splendid spectacle of gilded altars, massive chandeliers, myriad lamps with ceramic eggs attached to them, paintings, carved wood, inlaid mother-of-pearl, bronze engravings, and blue and green wall tiles. The marble floor is usually covered with purple, green and red carpets.

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Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Israel

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Eddy Nalbandian (20 months ago)
Very nice place and very unique
Ian Harris (21 months ago)
You can only visit certain days and between 15:00 and 15:30, for free. The mass is beautiful, with chanting in Armenian and in general a very spiritual and "back-in-time" feeling. An interesting glimpse in the only occupant of Jerusalem that has never gotten into trouble with anybody else!
Nino Dizon (21 months ago)
It was believe that this was the place where James were buried. It was known also that Armenians who built this church was one of the few first church they built.
Boris Shemkar (23 months ago)
A very beautiful Armenian cathedral. The first in history. Open only between 15:00 and 15:30, and I recommend to visit it on time
Terry S (2 years ago)
This hidden gem is too-often overlooked by pilgrim groups and tourists. The St James Cathedral is beautiful, and especially worth visiting for monastic prayers or services. And the Armenian Christians were incredibly welcoming to us, explaining their liturgy to us as we went. We would definitely go back.
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