The Old City of Jerusalem: Spotlight on the Christian Quarter

Posted by Iris Hami

Feb 15, 2009 5:43:39 AM

The following article is the third in a series about the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel. 

The second to the largest area of the Old City, the Christian Quarter, is filled with great sites. It covers the northwest section of the Old City, including the New Gate to Jaffa Gate. As the name suggests, this quarter features mostly Christian holy places, but is still beautiful to visit for anyone traveling through the area.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also Church of the Resurrection) is located in the center of the quarter and is open daily to all visitors, typically during daylight hours. According to Christian theologians, this is the site where Jesus was both crucified, buried, and resurrected. Inside the church is a virtual treasure trove of beautiful ancient Christian artifacts, a hall for prayer, and the tomb of Jesus. While technically the Jerusalem headquarters for the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic sects also share a portion in control of the church.

Via Dolorosa, or Walk of Pain/Suffering, is one of the most spiritually moving walks of the Old City. There are frequently groups of pilgrims who will organize the walk with a leader/priest from their church. Along the way are nine Stations of the Cross, each of which is a holy site in its own right. The walk begins in the Muslim Quarter at the Lion's Gate, and continues until the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Controlled by the Lutherans, the Church of the Redeemer (a two minute walk from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) stands tall amongst surrounding buildings. For those that are willing to pay a few shekels (approximately 20 shekels), you can hike up the staircase to the top of the bell tower. The walk up is tiring, and even a bit scary, but is worth the beautiful 360 degree views you will catch at the top. If you're not up for the hike, the exterior of the church offers very interesting architecture, especially on the medieval-styled northern gate.

As part of the grand tradition of the Middle East, the Christian Quarter also features a shuk to meddle in. The main part of the shuk is on the Christian Quarter Road, but does trickle slightly to side roads. You will find many Christian-focused gifts, such as crosses, rosaries, nativity scenes, et cetera. The same rules go for this shuk as the one in the Muslim Quarter, you will need to be savvy and bargain hard to get yourself a good price; don't settle.

If you get hungry, the best place to go is near the New Gate for falafel or shawerma in pita (the restaurant is on the corner as soon as you enter). There are also a few scattered pizza places and hookah cafes throughout the quarter (be aware that hookah cafes may be men-only).

For lodging, check out the Casa Nova Pilgrim Hospice or the Petra Hostel.

All images provided by the Author and can be viewed on her Flickr account.

Check out the other quarters of the Old City:

Topics: Christian Travel, Culture and Heritage, Israel Travel