Monastery of the Cross

The Monastery of the Cross (Arabic: دير الصليب, Dayr al-Salīb; Hebrew: מנזר המצלבה; Georgian: ჯვრის მონასტერი, jvris monast'eri) is an Eastern Orthodox monastery near the Nayot neighborhood of Jerusalem. It is located in the Valley of the Cross, below the Israel Museum and the Knesset.

Monastery of the Cross
دير الصليب / Deir as-Salib[1]
MinzarHamatzleva ST 04.jpg
The monastery in the snow
AffiliationEastern Orthodox Church
Palestine grid1697/1309
Geographic coordinates31°46′19.56″N 35°12′28.8″E / 31.7721000°N 35.208000°E / 31.7721000; 35.208000Coordinates: 31°46′19.56″N 35°12′28.8″E / 31.7721000°N 35.208000°E / 31.7721000; 35.208000
The church in the monastery


Legend has it that the monastery was erected on the burial spot of Adam's head—though two other locations in Jerusalem also claim this honor—from which grew the tree that gave its wood to the cross on which Christ was crucified.[2]


Late Roman/Byzantine periodEdit

It is believed that the site was originally consecrated in the fourth century under the instruction of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who later gave the site to king Mirian III of Kartli after the conversion of his kingdom to Christianity in AD 327.[3] Remains from the 4th century are sparse, the most important of which is a fragment of a mosaic.[citation needed]

Early Muslim periodEdit

The monastery was built in the eleventh century, during the reign of King Bagrat IV by the Georgian monk Prochorus the Iberian.[3]

Crusader periodEdit

The remains of the Crusader-period monastery forms a small part of the current complex, most of which has undergone restoration and rebuilding. The crusader section houses a church,[dubious ] including a grotto where a window into the ground below allows viewing of the spot where the tree from which the cross was (reputedly) fashioned grew.[citation needed]

Mamluk periodEdit

Under Sultan Baibars (1260–77) the monks were executed after being accused of being spies for the Ilkhanate Mongols, who had recently destroyed Baghdad. In 1305, an ambassador of the King of Georgia, supported by Andronikos II, to Sultan An-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun achieved repossession of the monastery.[4][5]

In the early 1480s Felix Fabri described it: "...we came to fair church, adjoining which is a small monastery, wherein dwell Georgian monks with their wives. When we entered into the church, we were led up to the high altar, which is said to stand on the very spot where grew the tree of the holy cross."[6]

Ottoman periodEdit

The monastery before 1853, when the bell tower was added

In the early 1600s, Franciscus Quaresmius described it as: "beautiful and spacious, paved with mosaic work and embellished with various Greek pictures. Moreover, the monastery is now indeed large, fortified and commodious; but formerly it was much larger, as its ruins demonstrate."[7]

Due to heavy debt the monastery was sold by the Georgians to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dositheos II in 1685.[8][9] It is currently occupied by monks of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In 1697 Henry Maundrell noted: "a Convent of the Greeks, taking its name from the holy Cross. This convent is very neat in its structure, and in its situation delightful. But that which most deserves to be noted in it, is the reason for its name, and foundation. It is because here is the Earth, that nourished the Root, that bore the Tree, that yielded the Timber that made the Cross. Under the high Altar you are shown a hole in the ground where the stump of the Tree stood, [..] After our return, we were invited into the Convent, to have our feet washed. A ceremony performed to each Pilgrim by the Father Guardian himself. The whole society stands round singing some Latin Hymns, and when he has done, every Fryar comes in order, and kisses the feet of the Pilgrim: all this was performed with great order, and solemnity."[10]

Modern periodEdit

Georgian inscriptions painted overEdit

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Georgian inscriptions were painted over and replaced by Greek ones. In a 1901 photograph showing the mural of the Council of Archangels, Georgian inscriptions are visible, but 1960 photographs[clarification needed] show that the inscriptions had been changed to Greek; after cleaning the paintings the Georgian inscriptions emerged again. The same happened in the case of the Christ Anapeson, the "reclining Jesus".[11][clarification needed] In many places (e.g. near the figures of St. Luke and St. Prochore) the outline of Georgian letters are clearly visible under the recently added Greek inscriptions.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Rustaveli portrait: defaced and restoredEdit

Fresco of Rustaveli before and after being vandalized in 2004

In June 2004, shortly before a visit by the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to Israel, a fresco of the legendary Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli on a column inside the church was defaced by unknown individuals. It is the only extant medieval portrait of Rustaveli. The face and part of the accompanying inscription were scratched out. Georgia officially complained to Israel after the incident.[12][13] The fresco has been restored by Israeli specialists, based on good existing documentation.

Description, visitEdit

The fortified monastery comprises a church and living quarters. The church contains ancient murals and inside a side chapel one can see a hole in the ground where, according to tradition, the tree once grew from which the Holy Cross was fashioned.

The library houses many Georgian manuscripts.

Visitors can also access a museum and gift shop.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, pp. 293, 315
  2. ^ Sylvester Saller & Bellarmino Bagatti, "The Sanctity and Cult of Lot" Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine, first published in The Town of Nebo (Khirbet el-Mekhayyat). With a Brief Survey of Other Ancient Christian Monuments in Transjordan, Jerusalem 1949, 5.193–199. Accessed 2008-03-02
  3. ^ a b The Wellspring of Georgian Historiography: The Early Medieval Historical Chronicle The Conversion of Katli and The Life of St. Nino, Constantine B. Lerner, England: Bennett and Bloom, London, 2004, p. 35
  4. ^ Moudjir ed-dyn, 1876, pp. 173-174
  5. ^ Pringle, 1998, p. 34
  6. ^ Fabri, 1893, pp. 1-2
  7. ^ Quaresmius, 1639, vol 2, p. 712. As translated in Pringle, 1998, p. 35
  8. ^ Pringle, 1998, p. 35
  9. ^ Georgia's new ambassador to Israel bears a heavy cross, Haaretz
  10. ^ Maundrell, 1703, pp. 92-93
  11. ^ Alexander P. Kazhdan, ed. (1991). "Christ Anapeson". The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2014-11-21.(subscription required)
  12. ^ Precious Jerusalem fresco defaced, 5 July 2004, BBC
  13. ^ Lily Galili, "Defaced Fresco of Georgian Hero Clouds Diplomatic Ties", Haaretz – 05/07/2004.


External linksEdit