DOMINUS FLEVIT

Catholic - Franciscan Order
Located on the Mount of Olives
[#9 on the Mount of Olives map]


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"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

LUKRE 19:41-44


Temple Mount from Dominus Flevit's picture window.

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When you descend the Mount of Olives in the direction of Jerusalem, an incomparable tableau unfolds before your eyes. Now imagine, if your view is so stupendous, what Jesus must have observed on his last, fateful journey 2,000 years ago. At that time the Holy Temple towered above the Kidron Valley - its marble columns and enormous bronze doors a shimmering vision in the morning sun. Indeed, the dazzle of the city's glorious palaces and shiny white marble towers must have blinded the eyes of its beholders.
Walking toward Jerusalem, then, and overwhelmed by the glory of the sight, Jesus suddenly became distraught. He knew the tragic fate which would soon befall the Holy City and, aware of the devastation and desecration that lay in store, Jesus wept.
Located on the Mount of Olives and immediately facing the Old City's magnificent panorama is a sanctuary called Dominus Flevit, which literally means, in Latin, "the Lord wept" . To symbolize what occurred on or near this site, the sanctuary was fashioned in what the architect envisaged as a teardrop. Thus the building itself serves as a poignant reminder of that New Testament scene.
One of the newest churches in Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit sits atop a very ancient site. During construction in 1955 archeologists ncovered artifacts dating back to the Canaanite period as well as tombs from both the Second Temple and Byzantine eras. Also unearthed were the remains of a lovely Byzantine shrine with an elaborate mosaic floor.
The Byzantine floor, which was incorporated into the modern-day church, is richly decorated with intersecting circles and pictures of fruit, leaves, flowers, and fish. On the tiles is a Greek inscription which mentions the follower Simon, who "decorated this place of prayer in honor of Jesus". The slab which was the top of a Byzantine altar, perhaps found by archeologists at the site and brought to the church, sits right on top of the mosaic tiles.
While from the top of the mountain Dominus Flevit's intriguingly abstract exterior appears to be the top of a large and impressive edifice, the church is actually quite small. Yet although it contains only an ancient and modern apse, a few chairs, a mosaic floor, and an altar, this is still a charming and impressive chapel. Gilded mosaics embellish the simple inner lines of the church's domed ceiling. On each of its four sides is an impressive biblical bas relief.
But the compact chapel's most remarkable feature is its arch-shaped picture window, purposely situated behind the altar. A stupendous view of the contemporary Old City includes a section of 400-year-old Turkish-built walls, many of its buildings, and the Mosque of Omar's glittering, golden dome.
A mosaic picture of a hen and her chickens decorates the bottom of the altar. For it is written: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing " (Luke 13:34).
Architect of this modern masterpiece was Antonio Barluzzi, who designed several of Jerusalem's most delightful sanctuaries and the monumental edifice which served at the beginning of the century as the city's Italian Hospital. Although he drew heavily on his Italian background, each of his creations is designed for the site's specific historic or religious ambience.
Among his other Jerusalem works are the renowned BASILICA OF THE AGONY at Gethsemane (see page 7), the famous CHURCH OF VISITATION (see page 35) in Ein Kerem, and the CHURCH OF FLAGELLATION on the Via Dolorosa (see page 66). ST. LAZARUS' CHURCH, in Bethany (see page one), is another fine example of Barluzzi's craftsmanship.

Visiting hours: Daily 8:00-11:45; 14:30-17:00

Return to "Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem"