Churches in Jerusalem you should not miss

Churches in Jerusalem, Church of Mary Magdalene

Jerusalem is one of the most religiously diverse and culturally captivating cities in the whole entire world. Following my trip to the Holy Land, I’d love to summarise my top Churches in Jerusalem. There are many famous churches in Jerusalem; my favourites have been chosen based on the combination of religious significance combined with architectural beauty. A visit to the Holy City is a travel experience like no other, it allows you to walk in the footsteps of Christ himself.

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Top Churches of Jerusalem

What is interesting about Jerusalem is the cultural and diversity within the city, and the way that it is laid out. Within the walls of the old town of Jerusalem, you will find three main quarters – the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. Some amazing Churches can be found in the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter, and also up near Mount Zion (near Zion Gate). You can also find some beautiful and interesting Churches up on the Mount of Olives (The Church of All Nations lies at the foot of Mount Of Olives and is one of the most famous Churches in Jerusalem, which is surrounded by the Garden of Gethsemane (the place where Jesus underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested before his crucifixion).

Christian Churches in Jerusalem Mount of Olives
Churches of Jerusalem – Church of Mary Magdelene and Church of All Nations visible on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives deserves at least a morning or preferably one full day to explore.

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When visiting the Christian Churches in Jerusalem, remember to dress conservatively. That means that you should have your legs, arms and shoulders covered. Ladies, don’t wear short skirts or have cleavage on display (it’s inappropriate). Remain silent inside religious buildings in Jerusalem and follow the guidelines for each individual Church regarding photography (some don’t allow it at all and some allow it but without flash).

It is a fantastic experience to visit the Churches of Jerusalem, but remember that the area is experiencing ongoing conflict. It is advised that you seek information from the Foreign and Commonwealth office (or your own governments travel advice) before you travel.

1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the most famous Church in Jerusalem, and the most important Church for Christian pilgrims around the world.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 326 AD and consecrated in 355 AD. The Church is multi-denominational, meaning that it is shared by several Christian denominations, predominantly Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

Mosaic inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Mosaic inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

A tip for visiting – go early! We arrived at around 10.30am and there were already queues. There is no fee to visit the Church. When you enter, you will immediately be greeted by the stone of the anointing, the place where it is alleged that Jesus’ body was prepared for burial (John 19:40), and it is the 13th Station of the Cross (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist Christians predominantly).

stone of the anointing Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Stone of the Anointing, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

The highlight of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for any Christian pilgrim or visitor alike is the tomb of Jesus Christ himself. It’s sometimes called the Church of the Resurrection, as the tomb is empty and Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe in a physical resurrection of Christ.

Tomb of Christ Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Tomb of Christ, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

2. Church of all Nations

This Roman Catholic church in Jerusalem was completed in 1924 using funds of many different countries and is visited by Christian pilgrims of all denominations. It lies at the foot of mount of Olives and is instantly recognisable by its stunning external mosaic.

Churches in Jerusalem Church of All Nations
Facade of the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Olives

Many Churches of Jerusalem are built on or near a key event in the life or passion (death) of Christ. The religious significance of this beautiful church is that it is built near the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was arrested. It also enshrines a section of bedrock on which Jesus himself allegedly prayed.

Garden of Gethsemane
Garden of Gethsemane, Church of All Nations, Jerusalem

3. Church of Mary Magdeline

The Church of Mary Magdalene is a Russian Orthodox Church located on the Mount of Olives, recognisable with seven beautiful golden onion shaped domes. This is religiously significant because according to Mark’s gospel, Mary Magdalene was a close friend of Jesus and the first person to see the resurrected Christ. The Church was built in 1886 by Tsar Alexander III in honour of his mother (Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia).

Church of Mary Magdelene Jerusalem Onion Domes
The beautiful Gold Onion domes of the Church of Mary Magdelene

4. Dormition Abbey

Dormition Abbey is a German Catholic Church located just outside the City Walls on Mount Zion near Zion Gate. It was established by the Benedictine order in the 5th Century. The Abbey is of key importance to Roman Catholics because it is on the spot where this church was built that Mary died. Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that Mary, mother of God ascended to heaven (body and soul).

Christian Churches Jerusalem Dormition Abbey
Christian Churches Jerusalem: Dormition Abbey

Head down the crypt spiral staircases to the right and left of the main church, and you will find yourself in a shrine to Mary, mother of God, along with some more stunning New Testament colourful mosaics.

Mosaic inside Dormition Abbey Mary and Jesus
Christian Churches of Jerusalem: Mosaic inside Dormition Abbey Mary and Jesus

5. Peter in Gallicantu

Located just outside the old city walls on the Eastern slope of Mount Zion, this Roman Catholic Church was built to commemorate Peter’s Denial. All Churches of Jerusalem have great religious significance. The word Gallicantu in Latin for denial, and according to the Bible, it was said that Peter would deny Jesus three times, before the cock crows twice (Mark 14:30). This is symbolised by the golden rooster on the sanctuary roof.

Peter in Gallicantu
Peter in Gallicantu, Jerusalem

Inside Peter in Gallicantu, the stations of the cross are displayed along with multi-coloured mosaics depicting scenes from the New Testament. But, as with many Jerusalem churches, it’s what lies beneath that makes this place so astounding. The ruins on which the church is built appear to be of Caiaphus’ Palace. Therefore, this could well have been the place where Jesus himself was imprisoned. To explore the caves beneath is a moving and eye-opening experience.

Cells underground where Jesus was imprisoned
Cells underground where Jesus was imprisoned

From Peter in Gallicantu, stairs lead down to the Kidron Valley, where Jesus is said to have walked to take himself to his own arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.

Kidron Valley Jerusalem
Kidron Valley, Jerusalem

Other Interesting Churches in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is such a massively religious and cultural city, you might be surprised to hear that you can actually find 158 Churches, 100 of which lie in the old city! Needless to say that my list shouldn’t really end there! Here are more interesting Christian Churches in Jerusalem…

6. Church of the Redeemer

Here you can walk ‘through the ages’ and explore, under the nave, archaeological ruins that go back to the time of Herod the Great, Jesus, Hadrian, Constantine and the Middle Ages. A museum in the Cloister provides further information on the history of the city. From the Church tower, you can get a wonderful view of the city of Jerusalem.

Church of the Redeemer Jerusalem

7. Dominus Flevit

Located on the Mount of Olives, this is the Church where Jesus was said to be weeping for Jerusalem. It was built in the shape of a tear (designed by the famous Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi) to represent that. Dominus Flevit is Latin for ‘the Lord wept’.

Jerusalem Churches Dominus Flevit chapel of Jesus weeping
Jerusalem Churches Dominus Flevit chapel of Jesus weeping

8. Church of Saint Anne

The Church of St Anne is the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It marks the traditional site of the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and is allegedly the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother.

Other Important Christian Sites in Jerusalem

Religion and history are all around you in Jerusalem, and your visit or Christian pilgrimage should not be restricted to the Churches alone. The two main sites that you should not miss on your trip to Jerusalem are the room of the Last Supper and Via Dolorosa.

The Room of the Last Supper

You can visit the room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem. It is the room where Jesus had the last meal with his disciples. He was aware that he was going to die and accepted it as his fate. Jesus broke the bread and encouraged the disciples to break the bread and dip it in the wine. The bread represented his body and the wine represented his blood. Jesus said ‘do this to remember me.’

Room of the Last Supper Christian Jerusalem
Room of the Last Supper, Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa Street

Via Dolorosa is the road down which Jesus took the path bearing his cross, forced by the Roman Soldiers. If you want to follow the full route, it is recommended that you take forty five minutes to one hour where you will see the spots for nine stations of the cross, and at least an another hour for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (see above), where you will find another five stations.

Staying in Jerusalem

If you are visiting the top churches of Jerusalem, you will find the city walkable and easy to navigate. I recommend that you stay either within the old city walls (there are lots of AirBnB options) or in the New City (Jewish area).

If you are travelling on a budget, or a solo traveller looking to connect with other travellers, stay at Abraham Hostel. They provide plenty of tours of Jerusalem and day tours out of the city (e.g. Nazareth, Hebron, Dead Sea and Bethlehem).

If you are looking for something more luxurious, I recommend the King David Hotel, Dan Boutique and Mamilla Hotel.

What to Pack for Israel

It can get hot in Israel in the summer months and so I would recommend a good water bottle and sun cream. I love the lifestraw as it has an inbuilt filter.

As you will probably be visiting many religious destinations, avoid spaghetti strap tops and tank tops. Long cool dresses are fine but I would avoid shoulders on show. Take a good pair of walking trousers and a pair of comfy leggings. A head scarf is a great thing to take to cover your head or shoulders if necessary at a place of worship and can also be used to keep warm if the weather changes.

Good walking socks and walking boots are essential as you should expect to cover a lot of ground to see the main sites. Get walking boots that are a good fit and weatherproof.

Further Reading on Jerusalem

If you enjoyed this article on my top churches of Jerusalem you might also like to read about…

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  1. Pingback: 3 days in Israel - Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

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