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Church of the Dormition / Dormition Abbey | by Jorge Lascar
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Church of the Dormition / Dormition Abbey

Abbey of the Dormition is an abbey and the name of a Benedictine community in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion just outside the walls of the Old City near the Zion Gate.


Between 1998 and 2006 the community was known as the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey of the Virgin Mary, in reference to the Basilica of Hagia Maria Sion that formerly stood on this spot, but resumed the original name during the 2006 100th anniversary celebrations. Hagia Maria Sion is now the name of the foundation supporting the abbey's buildings, community and academic work.


According to local tradition, it was on this spot, near the site of the Last Supper, that the Blessed Virgin Mary died. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, as in the language of scripture, death is often called a "sleeping" or "falling asleep", and this gave the original monastery its name, the church itself is called Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition).


The architect and buildings manager of the Diocese of Cologne Heinrich Renard (1868–1928) investigated the site in 1899 and discovered the remains of the Byzantine church of "Hagia Sion" and also of other churches. Connected with this is the thesis of Bargil Pixner of a pre-Crusader Church of Zion, Jerusalem. Direction of construction was entrusted to the architect Theodor Sandel, a member of the Temple Society and a resident of Jerusalem. The foundation stone was laid on 7 October 1900. Construction was completed in only ten years; the basilica was dedicated on 10 April 1910 by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.




The present church is a circular building with several niches containing altars, and a choir. Two spiral staircases lead to the crypt, the site ascribed to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, and also to the organ-loft and the gallery, from where two of the church's four towers are accessible.


Out of regard for the nearby Muslim sacred place of Nebi Daud ("tomb of David"), which now occupies the building in the Upper Room where traditionally the Last Supper took place, the belltower is set far enough away that its shadow does not touch Nebi Daud, and is therefore not directly accessible from the church []

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Taken on September 4, 2012