Distinguished by its blue conical roof, four ornamented turrets and landmark clock tower, the Abbey of the Dormition in Jerusalem is a German Benedictine church completed in 1910. It was built on land given by the Turkish sultan to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and commemorates the "falling asleep" (dormitio) of the Virgin Mary.
History of Dormition Abbey
The land on which the Dormition Church stands was given to Kaiser Wilhelm II by the Turkish sultan on the occasion of the kaiser's visit to Jerusalem in 1898. Kaiser Wilhelm presented it to the German Catholic Society of the Holy Land, and the Church of the Virgin was built on the site from 1901-10 by the architect H. Renard. It was dedicated in 1910 by the German Benedictines.
What to See at Dormition Abbey
In the courtyard the remains of a mosaic floor from the Byzantine basilica that once stood here are displayed under a glass cover. Unfortunately, the glare off the glass makes the mosaic nearly impossible to see. The abbey's tall tower culminates in a balcony and dome with clock.
The echoing main church is round and uncluttered, conveying a strong sense of lightness and space. It is far from plain, however: the floor, walls and dome are all decorated with mosaics, mainly depicting the prophets and apostles. The apse features a lovely golden Byzantine-style mosaic of the Madonna and Child (from 1939) above the main altar. The six round chapels are decorated in gold.
The lower-level crypt is the traditional site of Mary's home and death. A circular pillared hall with ambulatories, it centers on the Chapel of the Dormition with a carved-stone figure of Mary in repose (dormitio). Above, a mosaic in the dome depicts Christ receiving her soul. Among the adjacent little chapels is one donated by the Ivory Coast, with wooden figures and motifs inlaid with ivory.
Facilities on the premises include a bookstore with maps and religious literature and a cafeteria serving light refreshments.
Quick Facts on Dormition Abbey
|Virgin Mary (Dormition)
|Visitor and Contact Information
|31.772205° N, 35.228959° E
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- Kay Prag, Blue Guide to Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Black and Norton, 2002), 213-14.
- Daniel Jacobs, Mini Rough Guide to Jerusalem (Rough Guides, 1999), 136-37.
- Fodor's Israel, 6th ed.
- Photos of Dormition Abbey - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem
Below is a location map and aerial view of Dormition Abbey. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.