St. James Cathedral, Jerusalem

St. James Cathedral, Jerusalem

Nestled within a walled compound in the ancient Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, the Church of St. James – dedicated to two martyred saints of that name – is one of the most artfully decorated worship places in the Holy Land. According to Armenian tradition, within the church are buried the head of St. James the Great – one of the first apostles to follow Jesus, and the body of St. James the Less, believed to be a close relative of Jesus, who later became the first Bishop of Jerusalem.

Here you will see a church decorated in Byzantine and early Christian style and witness a centuries-old ritualistic service, with lovely hymns and chants that are unique to the Armenian liturgy. It's an educational and enlightening way to spend 30 minutes of your time if you are visiting the Armenian Quarter during the afternoon. At other times, you can enter the peaceful courtyard to see the exterior, which is decorated with khachkars (stone crosses surrounded by intricate tracery) and tiled murals depicting the Last Judgement and the Apostles.

Dimly lit by a forest of golden oil-lamps hung from the ceiling, the church interior is quite ornate with frescoes, engravings, tiling, metalworks, hanging incense burners, chandeliers, decorative altar, and even a second-floor globe. There is much to keep the eyes busy while you listen to and witness the service. At the end, you can take pictures for around 10 minutes before church staff kindly usher guests out of the building.

Tip:
Only open during daily services, so plan your visit to coincide.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6:30–7:30am / 3–3:40pm; free admission

This sight is featured in a self-guided walking tour of Jerusalem, Israel within the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" which can be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google Play. Please download the app to your mobile phone or tablet for travel directions for visiting this sight. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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St. James Cathedral on Map

Sight Name: St. James Cathedral
Sight Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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