Mount Zion Walking Tour (Self Guided), Jerusalem

For those interested in religion and history, Mount Zion offers several unique sights that are situated in close proximity to each other. An important place for Christians, Jews as well as Muslims, it holds important constructions dating from the 20th century as well as the compound built by the Crusaders, marking the spot of King David's tomb as well as of the Room of the Last Supper.

In addition to visiting Mount Zion, visitors can make their way east along the wall of the Old City, taking in the ruins of the City of David, the monumental tombs of Kidron Valley as well as numerous impressive places at the Mount of Olives nearby.
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Mount Zion Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Mount Zion Walking Tour
Guide Location: Israel » Jerusalem (See other walking tours in Jerusalem)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Zion Gate
  • Dormition Abbey
  • The Cenacle – Room of the Last Supper
  • King David's Tomb
  • Chamber of the Holocaust
  • Schindler's Grave
  • Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu
1
Zion Gate

1) Zion Gate

One of the eight gates built into the walls of the Old City, the Zion Gate – also called David's Gate – leads directly into the Armenian and Jewish Quarters, and if the legends are true about the famous Jewish king being buried here, then the name fits well.

Built by Suleiman the Magnificent's engineers circa 1540, it allowed direct access from the city to the holy sites on Mt Zion. In the 19th century, the area close to the gate became famous as a gathering place of lepers.

In 1948, during the Arab-Israeli War, this territory saw severe fighting when Israeli soldiers were desperate to breach the walls to relieve the Jewish Quarter under siege by Palestinian Arab forces. A testament to that event is the gate's exterior terribly pockmarked with bullet holes. A short distance to the west reveals conspicuous damage to the base of the wall where soldiers attempted to blast their way through with explosives.

When the last of the British troops left Jerusalem on May 13, 1948, the then president of the Old City's Jewish community, Mordechai Weingarten was presented with a key to the gate.

The Zion Gate retained its angular features designed to prevent invaders from entering – but you can come in the opposite direction and 'invade' the Old City 24 hours a day.

Tip:
The walls along here are especially nice and make for some fine photos in the afternoon sun.
2
Dormition Abbey

2) Dormition Abbey (must see)

This beautiful, ancient monastery on top of Mount Zion – said to be the place where the Virgin Mary was taken, body and soul, to heaven by angels – is attractive for its distinctive conical roof and rich interior decorations, in addition to its religious significance. After Christ's death, according to Christian tradition, his mother lived on Mount Zion until her eternal sleep; the name "dormition" meaning "falling asleep" or death and the resurrection to heaven.

The church has two levels – the main church and the crypt, both equally impressive, with fine mosaics and Byzantine-style artwork which cover almost every surface, including the floor. Chapels and alters have been donated from around the world and make the tour of the church simply breathtaking, culminating with the ivory sculpture of the resting Mary in the crypt below.

The little shop and quiet cafe are the frostings on the cake; a real haven in the maze complex of the Old City. The cade has comfortable chairs and tables and delicious coffee/cakes, while the shop sells high-quality souvenirs at very reasonable prices, including small hand-painted Russian icons and handcrafted crosses.

Tip:
Make sure to use their 3-shekel bathroom to see the ruins they have there with an explanation!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am–5:30pm; 11:30am–5:30pm
3
The Cenacle – Room of the Last Supper

3) The Cenacle – Room of the Last Supper

Part of the same complex that houses the Tomb of David on Mount Zion, the ancient Room of the Last Supper is on the upper floor of a Gothic building near the Dormition Abbey built by the Crusaders. Christian tradition maintains that it is not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle) but also the place in which the Holy Spirit alighted upon the eleven apostles after Easter.

While the room is a large and open space with no furnishings or adornments apart from the Gothic arches dividing it, just being there is inspiring. Pilgrims have been coming here since at least the 2nd century of the common era, so even if you are not a believer, it is an important historical location that should not be missed.

Ironically, the most beautiful architectural elements are Islamic, testimonies of the site's history as a mosque for some 400 years until the war of 1948 which led to the establishment of the State of Israel. Standouts include the small but very ornate mihrab and the impressive stained glass windows with colorful geometric designs and delicate Quranic inscriptions.

Tip:
Once you leave the Cenacle, try to access the roof of the building for beautiful views of the Mount of Olives and the Dormition Abbey next door.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am–6pm
4
King David's Tomb

4) King David's Tomb (must see)

King David is an essential part of Jewish identity; at his tomb, one realizes that, in a way, he is still alive. This site is considered by some to be his burial place, according to a tradition that began in the 12th century AD, shortly after the Crusades. Now in Jewish control, the building is from the times of the Crusaders, and parts of it are free for public visitation.

As you walk in, take a look at the beautiful tile work in the first antechamber, with the patchwork done to match the repairs to the Dome of the Rock during the 1500s. The second antechamber houses a mihrab with equally impressive tile work dating from the 1400s when the area was under Muslim control. The building is currently used as a synagogue and when going in through separate entrances for men and women, you will see the velvet-draped cenotaph that marks the place of David's tomb. Pictures are usually allowed, but try not to upset the people praying there.

The tomb compound includes the location traditionally identified as the Cenacle of Jesus (where, according to tradition, Christ washed his Disciples' feet after the Last Supper) – the original meeting place of the Christian faith, while on the roof of the building there is an impressive observation point, and a mosque's minaret, built by the Turks during the 16th century following the Christians' expulsion from Mount Zion.

Tip:
Be sure to be appropriately covered; modest dress is advised regardless of gender (kippahs are provided for men).
5
Chamber of the Holocaust

5) Chamber of the Holocaust

Among the lesser-known sites on Mount Zion, this small memorial once acted as Israel's first Holocaust museum, pre-dating the larger Yad Vashem museum by at least four years. A six-room cellar located beside a tomb some believe to be the burial place of the biblical King David, it was established in 1949 by early settlers who came to Israel as refugees, anxious to see that their previous lives would be remembered.

Once you've made your way to the small desk at the entrance, a minimal fee permits you to wander through the several small rooms and a courtyard. There are seldom many other visitors and one is thus left alone for quiet contemplation. With a bit of signage and a dramatic display of finds (mostly of Jewish religious context), one gets a sense of the mood that was being aimed for. Sometimes referred to as "a cemetery without bodies", it has headstones without graves, monuments without remains and tombstones for family members who had no real tomb to visit. In this very tangible and affecting way, the full scope of the Holocaust is brought home.

Exiting into the daylight once again reminds of the contrast of present-day Israel and the past.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10:30am–6pm
6
Schindler's Grave

6) Schindler's Grave (must see)

Across the road from the Chamber of the Holocaust, at the end of the path is a Christian cemetery, where the grave of German-born Oskar Schindler (1908–1974) is located. During the Second World War, this industrialist – a Nazi Party member – made every effort to use Jewish prisoners as laborers in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, thus saving 1,200 people from almost certain death in the gas chambers. He continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the execution of his workers until the end of WWII in Europe in May 1945, by which time he had spent his entire fortune. After the war, Schindler was supported by assistance payments from Jewish relief organizations, thus receiving a partial reimbursement for his wartime expenses. Having become a symbol of the fight against the Holocaust, he is the subject of the 1982 novel "Schindler's Ark" and the Oscar-winning 1993 film adaptation, "Schindler's List".

Schindler's grave in the Catholic Franciscan cemetery on the southern slope of Mount Zion is visited by Jews, Christians and people of no religious faith. You can spot his tomb out amongst others as it will likely have reeves, flowers and a great many stones placed upon its top.

Tip:
The grave is around 7-8 mins walk from the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu and 4-5 mins walk to King David's Tomb, the Dormition Abbey, and the Room of the Last Supper if you want to combine with visits to other attractions on Mount Zion.
7
Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu

7) Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (must see)

Around five minutes walk from the Zion Gate, on the slopes overlooking the City of David, this church commemorates the site where Jesus is believed to have been imprisoned by the High Priest Caiaphas, and where Peter famously denied knowing him, thus fulfilling the prophecy, "Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice" (Matthew 26:34). As it happens, the Latin term "gallincantu" stands for "cock-crow" and, fittingly, atop the church is a rooster to remind of the event.

Raised in 1931 on the former site of Byzantine and Crusader structures, the pretty white stone church looks rather modern, but below ground are ancient grottos where Peter and John were allegedly held for preaching at the Temple following the Resurrection; also, nearby underground, the "Sacred Pit" uncovered in 1889, where Christ is said to have been held overnight while awaiting trial before Pontius Pilate. A visit here is very sobering, especially to see the iron loops and whittled out holes in the rock from which rope would have hung and the prisoners strung up.

Among other archaeologic finds upon the church grounds in an ancient staircase running down the mountain slope and covered in mosaic – many Christians believe Jesus walked down these "Holy Stairs" the night of his arrest. The large model of what Jerusalem may have looked like in Byzantine times is worth a few minutes as well.

The modern church is decorated in blue, with large, multi-colored mosaics portraying figures from the New Testament and a beautiful ceiling dominated by a huge cross-shaped window designed in a variety of colors. A well-stocked gift shop, clean bathrooms and small cafe are also located on the property.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8:30am-5pm; free entry

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