Tag Archives: Holy Land

Gazing Heavenward in the Holy Sepulchre

Everywhere you look there are wonderful representations of the faith in the Holy Sepulchre. Here is some of what you see, gazing heavenward…

In the Greek church, you can look up and see mosaics including the Archangel Michael.

In this picture you can just glimpse the top of the dome, showing Jesus, Pantocrator.

Jesus, Pantocrator, at the top of the dome.

Saint Matthew, in a pendentive:

Saint John, in a pendentive:

The dome over the Edicule.

Under the dome, the Edicule, built over the tomb of Jesus.

The Ethiopian monks at the Sepulchre. There are little monastic settlements on the roof and they live up there.

To read more about the Holy Sepulchre:

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

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.

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.


Mar Saba Monastery

The Monastery at Saint Sabbas has been a place of monasticism for 1,500 years. Saint Sabbas lived between 439 and 532. Note: towards the right is the Kidron Valley.

Mar Sabbas Monastery, photo taken in 1989.

Looking down the Kidron Valley, one can get a glimpse of cave like structures where solitary monks lived.

After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, the monastery was reorganized and was followed by the Glorious Golden Age that encompassed part of the 8th and 9th centuries.

View of one of the monastic chapels in the complex.

Tomb of Saint John of Damascus at the Monastery of Mar Saba taken in 1989. Today, no one is permitted to enter.

The tomb of Saint Sabbas. Notice the peacocks who symbolize eternal life.

Inside the tomb are a series of frescoes dedicated to the life of Our Lord and Saint Sabbas. This fresco is dedicated to the transition of life of Saint Sabbas from the life of this world to the life of the world to come.

Gazing heavenward towards Christ Pantocrator whose presence overshadows the tomb.

The Virgin Mary’s hands are extended in the orans position in prayers of intercession before her Son.

The Virgin Mary is serving Holy Communion to the monks at the altar of her Son. Notice the beautiful rose canopy that overshadows the altar. Note also how the dignity of the angels befits the sacrament of communion.

Saint Simon Stylites.

Daniel in the lions’ den.

Saint Sabbas presiding over monastic establishments in the desert.

The Virgin Mary enthroned protects the monks of the monastery.

At the head of the tomb is an image of the birth of the Virgin Mary.

This chapel houses the mortal remains of Saint Sabbas.

Fresco on cave wall that commemorates the crucifixion and burial of Christ.

Saint John of Damascus defended the veneration of icons. This monastery was also noted for the translation of church documents from Greek into Arabic.

View from the monastery into the Kidron Valley.

Overlooking the Kidron Valley from the monastery to the caves where solitary monks lived.

Looking up the Kidron Valley from the monastery.

A beautiful view of the courtyard that surrounds the tomb of Saint Sabbas.

Stylite where they would live their lives in prayers.

Topography of Jerusalem and the southern Levant

Mar Saba video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d77SyWyLchU

Judean Desert Monasteries video:



This is a church built to commemorate our Lord’s first sign at the wedding feast however there is little evidence this is Cana.

A detail.


A old stone from an olive press.


Lovely gardens.




We fortified ourselves at lunch.

We fortified ourselves at lunch.


A First Century Synagogue

Excavation of a first century synagogue where our Lord preached.

It is thought that it was a wealthy synagogue because of the mosaic work.

Looking into the synagogue.

This is a representation of the temple found in the excavation. Notice the wheels spoken of by Ezekiel.

The top of the stone.

The menorah.

midgal-044054This is a model of the boats of Jesus’ time.

The is a 2000 year old boat excavated from the mud. What a find!