Mount Temptation

In the fourth century, the Monk Chariton, from Iconium in Turkey, established this monastery. The Monastery of the Temptation is built into a cliff overlooking the city of Jericho rising 350 meters above sea level. The earliest monastic establishment here was built in the 6th century over the cave traditionally thought to be where Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights. Saint Helena in 326 identified this as a holy site, in her pilgrimage.

Monastery of the Temptation.

Church of the Temptation.

It was a laura, that is a community that has both solitary and community lifestyles.

This cave deep into the monastery is a place of prayers and pilgrimage.

The icon screen in the monastery church.

The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist offering prayers of intercession to Christ.

Fresco of the Crucifixion.

Gazing heavenward towards Christ, the Pantocrator, the Almighty.

Another view gazing heavenward.

The Virgin Mary presenting the Christ Child to the world. After the Baptism in the Jordan River, the Spirit drove him into the desert. According to ancient Christian tradition, this monastery commemorates the Mount of Temptation.

Notice how the chapels are carved into the pre-existing caves of the mountain.


Looking down from the Mount of Temptation to Jericho and beyond to the River Jordan.

The Mount of Temptation in depth – Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land

A Roman Jewel Rediscovered

In the city of Rome there are so many artistic jewels that reveal the loving presence of the Lord. The Basilica of Santa Maria Antiqua, long buried by an earthquake, has a fresco said to be “the oldest image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus, according to the architect Francesco Prosperetti, superintendent of archaeological artifacts in Rome. This is indeed Rome’s oldest icon.” See the rest at Aleteia:

Mosaics of Saint Gerasimus Monastery

This mosaic is at the foot of the icon of the Virgin Mary who holds her Son who is the source of the living water. The connection is stunning.

Next to the image of the deer slaking their thirst for living water is this floor mosaic.

Notice the anchor (hope); the pomegranate in the lower right hand corner is a symbol of the resurrection and hope of eternal life. The many seeds represent the many believers who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and united in one Catholic Church. The seeds from the pomegranate are also likened to Christ bursting forth from the tomb.

Grapes and baby animals all symbolize the renewal of creation through the Resurrection of Jesus.

Simple fresco.

Another early Christian tradition associates this cave with the Holy Family during their refuge from flight from Herod the Great.

Floor mosaic camel.

Saint Gerasimus

The Monastery of Saint Gerasimus was founded in the 5th century near the cave of Saint Gerasimus, who participated in the Council of Chalcedon. it was destroyed by the Persians in 614, and rebuilt by the Crusaders; restored in the 12th century; rebuilt in 1588; destroyed around 1734, and reestablished around 1885.

Icon screen in the major church. Notice the influence of Western art on the icons.

Although Saint Gerasimus was born in Lycia in southern Turkey his monastic quest led him from Turkey to the monastic establishments of Egypt and then on to Palestine near the river Jordan, where he established a monastery near the Jordan River near Jericho. His feast is March 5 in the West and March 4 in the East, as he is venerated in both West and East. One charming story in his hagiography is that he pulled a thorn out of the paw of a lion, which is commemorated in the mosaic work in the church. It is one of many beautiful mosaics in the monastic establishment.


A beautiful Tau cross in a geometric circle. Saint Anthony of the 3rd century and one of the first Christian monks used a crutch in the shape of a Tau. When he visited another monk, he would place the cross outside the cave as a symbol of communion of God.

Entrance into the Monastic Chapel.

The intricacy of the mosaics is truly stunning.

The Cave Church also has some beautiful floor mosaics.

Herod’s Fortress

The Herodium was a fortress constructed by Herod the Great who lived from 74 to 4 BC. Josephus, the 4th century Jewish historian describes the Herodium in this way:

“This fortress, which is some sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, is naturally strong and very suitable for such a structure, for reasonably nearby is a hill, raised to a (greater) height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast. At intervals it has round towers, and it has a steep ascent formed of two hundred steps of hewn stone. Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament at the same time. At the base of the hill there are pleasure grounds built in such a way as to be worth seeing, among other things because of the way in which water, which is lacking in that place, is brought in from a distance and at great expense. The surrounding plain was built up as a city second to none, with the hill serving as an acropolis for the other dwellings.”

From the height of the elevation there is a commanding view of the surrounding territory. It is an ideal location for a fortress.

Herod, who slaughtered the innocents of Bethlehem, was such a man of violence that the Emperor Augustus said “It is better to be Herod’s pig than son.” His escalating paranoia led him to kill his wife, and two of his sons.

The Herodium, built by King Herod the Great during the last three decades before the Birth of Christ, was a complex of palaces, entertainment and administrative structures, a fortress and a royal town. This is a view from the Herodium peering down to the lower Herodium which at one time was a magnificent area where King Herod would host distinguished guests.

Model of Upper Herodium.

Today the site is under intense archaeological excavation to identify structures of the Upper Herodium. Notice the remains of pillars in the lower left hand corner that outlines the oblong space that one can see in the reconstructed model.

One can detect the circular tower that was in front of the oblong terrace surrounded by columns.

Note the circular tower.

Remains of a bath house that featured a hot room lined in semi circle niches.

Miqveh. Jewish ritual based of purification from the time of the Great Revolt of Bar Kokhba.

A good of one of the circular towers of Herodium.

You can click to enlarge these photos of plaques showing more detail about the site.

Monastery of St. George of Choziba

In November of 2016 after I had conducted a tour to the Holy Land I remained a few days in order to explore some of the monastic establishments in the desert. The monastic charism is very vital to the life of the church but oftentimes underestimated by the average Christian.

Early in the morning I left Jerusalem and drove on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The monastery is located on Wadi Qelt which parallels the road leading to Jericho, setting of the story of the Good Samaritan. I walked through the valley, which some relate to Psalm 23, the “Valley of the Shadow of death,” about an hour’s walk through the desert to the monastery. In the 4th century several monks gathered in this location where they believed Elijah had been fed by ravens.

Walking to the monastery of Saint George of Choziba.

Not far from the city of Jericho, as I walked through Wadi Qelt, under the cliffs of the mountain, the monastery is situated by the river’s northern bank.

A footpath descends over a stream bed and then continues to the monastery.

Here in the heart of the Judean desert green trees flourish sprouting from the rocky terrain surrounding the stone buildings of the monastery.


In the early 5th century several monks lived in cells in the cliffs. John, a monk from Thebes in Egypt arrived about 480 and established a monastery dedicated to Mary, Mother of God. This is the icon screen in the monastery Church of Saint George.

Central Dome of Monastery Church.

Bishop’s chair in the Monastery Church.

Tomb of Saint George of Choziba. He survived the Persian conquest in 614 and died in 620 and was eventually canonized as a saint of the church.

Exterior of the church of the monastery of Saint George.

Notice the natural cave formations in the side of the mountains where monks established their cells for solitary life.