A Church dedicated to Mary Magdalene
The Church of Mary Magdalene is a Russian Orthodox church located on the Mount of Olives, in East Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. Dedicated to the woman who became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance. Mary Magdalene was one of the followers of Jesus. Among the women who stayed with him, she followed him even to the Crucifixion. She was present at the tomb, the first person to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection and the first to preach the “Good News” of that miracle.
The Church was built in 1886 by the Tsar Alexander III to honour his mother Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.
Its onion-shaped domes and the general style reflect the architecture of Moscow during the 16th and 17th centuries. Indeed the church has seven gilded onion domes, each topped by a tall Russian Orthodox cross, making the Church of St Mary Magdalene one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque sights. Mary Magdalene appears at the entrance in a circular blue mosaic.
The interior of the Church has walls covered with designs and Orthodox icons depictions of the four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and the archangel Gabriel. Above the iconostasis, a large canvas by Russian artist Sergei Ivanov illustrates a popular legend in which Mary Magdalene travels to Rome to tell the Emperor Tiberius of Jesus’ unfair trial and unjust sentence. She is shown presenting the emperor with a red egg, symbolising the Resurrection and eternal life.To the right side of the iconostasis, a 16th-century icon of the Virgin Mary in a hand-carved wooden case has a place of honour. The icon is said to have miraculous powers. The most impressive aspects of the visit are the blooming gardens and the breathtaking view of the Golden Gate, framed by cypress and olive trees.
Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, german princess and wife of Alexander’s brother and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria took a deep personal interest in the Church Art works. Canonised as martyr with her fellow nun Varvara Yakovleva by the Russian Orthodox Church, here two russian saints are buried in the church. On either side of the nave is a marble sarcophagus, each containing their bodies.
On either side of the nave is a marble sarcophagus, each containing the body of a Russian Orthodox saint.
Today, in its convent live about 30 Russian Orthodox nuns from several different countries. While particularly known for the quality of their liturgical singing, they also paint icons, embroider vestments and items for liturgical use, and decorate Russian eggs.