Spotlight on Religion: The Tomb of Virgin Mary

April 11th 2017

The tomb of the Virgin Mary is a beautiful structure that is commemorated by Christians of every denomination. Found in the Kidron Valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives, this holy site is regarded as the resting place of the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene. When you visit Israel next, be sure to stop by Jerusalem and observe this wondrous site.

History of the Tomb

According to Christian tradition, though she was the bearer of Christ, Mary died a natural, human death. After three days, Mary was resurrected, and Jesus ushered her into heaven, body and soul together. If this rendition of the story is correct, the tomb of the Virgin Mary is actually empty, though this has not been confirmed empirically. There is a further tradition called the Euthymiaca Historia that does write that her tomb was searched and found to be vacant on the third day after Mary’s passing, with nothing remaining but her shroud (some say her cincture). The Roman Catholics have a different view altogether.

Archeology and Architecture

In the early 70’s, a French archeologist who was excavating the area discovered the tomb. With three chambers being unearthed, the necropolis was further cleared away from the bedrock to discover the innermost chamber where the tomb actually was placed.

Bagatti also discovered several monuments and churches that had been built throughout history to commemorate and protect the site. A church was erected by Patriarch Juvenal in the 5th century but was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few centuries. The Crusaders built a more elaborate structure in 1130, often referred to as the Shrine of Our Lady Josaphat. It was destroyed once again by Saladin, but when some 14th-century friars again reconstructed the church, it finally found its peace and has remained untouched ever since.

What’s interesting to note is that throughout the centuries and all of the widespread destruction, pillagers never harmed the crypt itself, only the surrounding structures.

The Journey Begins

The Tomb of the Virgin Mary is just one interesting location to visit while you’re in the area. When you’ve finished this tour, be sure to head straight for the garden of Gethsemane, the Temple Mount, and the Church of the Nations.