Christian Quarter Walking Tour, Jerusalem

Christian Quarter Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

One of the epicenters of worldwide Christianity, the Christian Quarter is the 2nd-largest of Jerusalem’s four ancient quarters. A fascinating place to stroll through, it covers the Old City’s northwestern part, just beyond Jaffa Gate – the traditional pilgrim’s entrance to Jerusalem and a prime destination for most visitors.

With its tangle of broad streets and winding, narrow alleys, this area houses one of the holiest sites for all Christians – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a magnificent and timeworn edifice built over what is believed to be the sites of the crucifixion, entombment and resurrection of Christ.

Dominated by this multi-denominational temple, the quarter is also home to other prominent sites, such as the neo-Romanesque Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (climb its bell tower for great all-round views of East and West Jerusalem!), a colorful example of a Russian Orthodox church (sitting atop fascinating Roman ruins beneath), as well as the Muristan/Aftimos complex, packed with outdoor cafes, eateries, and stores.

You’ll even get to see some of the stations along Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried his cross on his way to be crucified, along with some additional bits of history that came well after Jesus’s time.

To explore the Christian Quarter in more detail, join us on this self-guided walking tour!
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Christian Quarter Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Christian Quarter Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • New Gate
  • Jerusalem Pottery Hagop Karakashian
  • Saint John the Baptist Church
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb
  • Muristan and Aftimos Markets
  • Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
  • Church of Alexander Nevsky
  • Via Dolorosa
New Gate

1) New Gate

The New Gate is the newest and the only entryway in the wall of Jerusalem's Old City that is not part of the original 16th-century design. This arched crenelated gate was built in 1889 in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, and should not be confused with the New Gate of the Second Temple mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah that had served as entrance to the Great Sanhedrin's Hall of Hewn Stones, previously called the Benjamin Gate. Standing at 790 meters (2,590 ft) above sea level, it marks the highest point of the Old City wall.

The gate also goes by the name “Bab es Sultan Abd ul Hamid” that was used by the Arab workers for the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II who made the construction possible yielding to the request of the French Consul to provide access to the Old City from the Notre Dame Hospice completed in 1886, and also to allow Russian pilgrims, living at the Russian Compound (outside the Old City walls), direct access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter.

Throughout the 20th century, the New Gate saw repeated attempts to destroy or damage by belligerent parties. In 1929, an unprovoked Arab attack left several Jews killed between the New and Damascus gates. In 1945, the Israeli paramilitary group attempted to demolish part of the wall next to the New Gate using a massive device that luckily failed to go off. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Jewish demolition charge intended for the gate was detonated by a stray artillery shell that set the Arab wooden barricade in front of the New Gate on fire. Subsequently, the Jordanian occupation administration sealed off the gate, and it wasn't until 1967 that it was reopened again by the Israeli Army following the Six-Day War.

Nowadays, the gate is supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, while the land around it is largely owned by the Latin Patriarchate and the Franciscan Order which have refused to sell it to the Israeli authorities. In the current urban layout of Jerusalem, the New Gate provides the quickest route from the Old City to West Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Pottery Hagop Karakashian

2) Jerusalem Pottery Hagop Karakashian

Strange as it may sound, but today Jerusalem is the only place in the world where authentic Armenian ceramics is still produced. Armenian pottery is a distinctive kind of ceramics, with traditional glazes from metallic oxides and graceful, hand-painted designs. The colors are bright yet earthy, the dominant color being cobalt blue. The peacock, symbolizing long life, is a popular design.

A good number of Armenian artists who specialized in this type of ceramics lived in Turkey in the 18th century. In 1919 the British government invited Armenian craftsmen to repair the ceramic tiles on the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Among them were craftsmen from the Karakashian family, who came to Jerusalem and stayed here, eventually opening a shop called Jerusalem Pottery.

The shop carries a wide selection of traditional crockery (plates, bowls, mugs, and platters, wooden trays with embedded tiles, all brightly colored, with floral designs, Persian-style hares, or deer) and decorative tiles suitable for embellishing both interior and exterior of home. Note that the vessels are good for serving only and must not be micro-waved or heated in the oven.

Authentic Armenian pottery of the Karakashian Brothers is unique and each piece is hand-painted and signed. Beware of cheap, fragile copies mass-produced at factories in Hebron. Prices range from $19.00 for a plate to $93.00 for a wooden tray with embedded decorated tiles. A custom-made name-plate is $25.00. The shop is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Saint John the Baptist Church

3) Saint John the Baptist Church

The Church of Saint John the Baptist is located in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem. There is another church of the same name on the Mount of Olives so don’t get confused. This is the one that has the beautiful silver dome. It was built originally around 450 CE, probably to house the relics of John the Baptist that was distributed to various holy cities.

The church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 and lay in ruins until the 11th century CE. At that time the church was rebuilt over its old foundation and has remained essentially unchanged for the last 1,000 years. It became the home of the Knights Hospitallers. Knights that were wounded in the Crusades were nursed back to health here and some remained to carry on the work of healing the injured and protected pilgrims to the Holy Land.

The Church might have been a mosque for a brief period of time, but has almost always been in the hands of the Greek Orthodox Church. The crypt that is under the church was one time left in ruin but was rediscovered in the 19th century. There was a lovely reliquary that was discovered in the crypt that is now housed in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Museum.

The church is not regularly open; however, if there is a priest there from the Greek Orthodox monastery, he will gladly open it for visitors.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb

4) Church of the Holy Sepulchre / Christ's Tomb (must see)

The spiritual heart of Jerusalem's Christian Quarter and a magnet for pilgrims from across the globe since the 4th century, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also called the Church of the Resurrection or Church of the Anastasis by Eastern Christians) contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the 4th century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified – at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha; and Jesus's empty tomb where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. Enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula, the latter draws many worshippers to services and ceremonies during various times of the day, with staff seeking to manage the number of visitors to prevent overcrowding. As such, be patient if you want to see the tomb – it can take a while.

The church proper is rather an odd hodgepodge of styles: a mix of humble and simple in spots and ornate in others. Within it are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) stations of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of the Passion of Jesus. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church under the Status Quo are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox.

There are numerous chapels to see here, each with its own special section of this holy ground. Directly beneath Calvary is the Chapel of Adam, which the ancient tradition holds is where the biblical character Adam, the first man, was buried. Behind the aedicule is the Coptic Chapel where more of the tomb is visible, but the Chapel of the Prison of Christ, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross are also open for visitation.

Come early and bring a guidebook. Nothing is signposted and there are no guides, so if you'd rather not bring a guidebook, at least do some research first. Proper dress is required for entering the temple.
Muristan and Aftimos Markets

5) Muristan and Aftimos Markets

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Christian Quarter is the Muristan Market. The area of Muristan (from Persian Bimārestān meaning "hospital") is a complex of streets and shops located between three churches, namely – the Church of Holy Sepulchre (Sepulcher), the Hospitallers' Church of St. John the Baptist, and the German church of the Redeemer. Back in the day, the area held the first hospital of the Knights Hospitaller, hence the name.

Today, the Muristan represents a cross-section of streets packed with outdoor cafes and other eateries, stores selling souvenirs and other crafts, as well as hostels and hotels – all geared towards tourists and Christian pilgrims.

In 1903, the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem built a market (suq) in the western side of the area previously occupied by ruins of the Santa Maria Maggiore church, and called it Aftimos (Avtimos) after Euthymius, the 19th-century sacristan (door keeper) of the All Holy Church of the Resurrection in the Holy Sepulcher, who oversaw development projects in the Christian sector. The latter person, in turn, was named after Saint Euthymius "the Great" (377-473 AD), a monk who lived in the Dead Sea area. The name Euthymius translates as a "good cheer", so the Avtimos market, with a good degree of certainty, can be taken as a "good cheer market". The market comprises 70 stores and is dominated by a grand fountain in the center built in 1903 in commemoration of the Sultan Abed al-Hamid II (1876–1909) 25th reign anniversary.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

6) Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is located in Old Jerusalem in the Northeast corner of the Muristan. The east half of this place was given to Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm by Sultan Abdul-Aziz of the Ottoman Empire. This occurred during a visit in 1869. Construction was completed in 1898 and it was the second Protestant worship center to be built in Old Jerusalem.

The building was raised over the ruins of the Church of St. Mary of the Latin’s. Some of that old edifice, such as the cloisters and refectory, were incorporated into this location. There is some speculation that both structures were built on top of an even older holy place.

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is home to four different language communities: Danish, Arabic, German and English.

There are several interesting sites to see here. Be sure to find the sculpture on the medieval northern gate. The doors have signs from the Zodiac on them that are somewhat like those on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The bell tower is open to the public for a small fee. For those who are brave enough to face the hard climb of ~200 steps, the reward at the top is a breathtaking view of Jerusalem that extends all the way to the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion.
Church of Alexander Nevsky

7) Church of Alexander Nevsky

Another interesting church well worth visiting in the Christian Quarter is the Church of Alexander Nevsky (Alexander Hospice), located just across from the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. This is a Russian Orthodox temple, constructed in 1859, named after a 13th-century Russian warrior-prince, and is quite a neat place to explore if you are keen on church visits.

In the first room, near the entrance, you will find, among other items of interest, portraits of the Russian royal family members. The second room holds an impressive iconostasis, wall paintings and cased items on display.

Perhaps of a greater interest at the site are the archaeological excavations started in 1883 — even before the church was built — attracting worldwide attention and leading to the site becoming known as the “Russian Excavations”. These excavations have revealed section of a Herodian city wall, dating back to the 2nd century A.D., as well as a section of a colonnade street and arch structure. The city wall structure, in particular, is significant as it gives credibility to the belief that the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the grounds originally outside the city wall and where, it is also believed, Jesus was crucified. Archaeology buffs will find this part of the visit particularly enjoyable.

The Alexander Nevsky Church can be conveniently visited within 15-20 minutes for those with tight sightseeing schedule. The opening hours are 9am to 6pm daily; the entry fee is NIS 5 per adult.
Via Dolorosa

8) Via Dolorosa (must see)

Via Dolorosa is the Latin for the “Way of Grief” or the “Way of Suffering”. It is interesting that while most signs in Jerusalem are in Hebrew, English and Arabic, this road is the only one known by its Latin name. The road is popular among Christian pilgrims who believe it traces the steps of Jesus carrying a cross en route to his crucifixion.

14 Stations mark the path along this route, including five of them within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Although anyone can walk the Via Dolorosa at any time, every Friday around 3pm, a group is lead by the Franciscan monks along the path, offering the best way to experience the walk. This area can be very crowded and the signs a bit hard to find. At spots, the walk backtracks a bit and station IX can be particularly difficult to locate. Some may find the noisy streets a bit distracting while searching for a quiet spot to pray or contemplate the area's religious significance.

There have been several different versions of the path throughout history; the current one was set in the 1700s and follows the route charted by the early Byzantine Christians. The stations are marked with the round signs, showing Roman numerals, marking the Stations of the Cross. Different religious groups start the walk at different sites.

Usually, the journey begins at the site where Jesus was tried and convicted, in the Muslim part of Old Jerusalem – near Lion’s gate, although some may opt for Herod’s Palace at the Jaffa Gate. The route ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and covers approximately 500 meters.

There is no entrance fee to the Via Dolorosa. There are many churches along the way to visit and several gift shops offering religious items. Re-enactments are frequently held along the Via Dolorosa, especially around the Holy Week.

The cobbled stone path can be very slippery. If it rains, some of the road sections must be walked with extreme caution. Certain parts can be rather steep, with many stairs and inclines.
Unless you wake up at 5am, don't expect much time for a quiet contemplation here, as there's too much hustle & bustle around and you will need to walk quickly or be run over by a motorcycle, human, or a goat!
Best come with a tour guide or bring a very comprehensive map/book and have a camera ready! Besides the spiritual significance of the area, the artwork and architecture are quite impressive too.

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