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Church of Mary Magdalene, Jerusalem

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Places of Interest

Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene



1. It's located on the side of the Mount of Olives, facing Old City Jerusalem.


2. It's just north of the Triumphal Entry path towards the lower part.

3. It's easily spotted as it has one large gilded onion dome and six smaller ones.

4. It makes an especially striking spectacle at night when its floodlit domes seem to be floating above the dark trees surrounding it.


Historical Background


1. The Church of Mary Magdalene was built in 1888 by Czar Alexander III of Russia to memorialize his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna. Mary Magdalene is venerated with particular devotion in the East Orthodox Church.

2. Its onion-shaped domes and the general style reflect the architecture of Moscow during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Although the intricately decorated façade appears to be made of marble, it's actually sculpted white sandstone.

3. Above the entrance, a circular blue mosaic medallion depicts Mary Magdalene robed in white.


4 . The church commemorates Mary, whose hometown was Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.


5. Mary is revered as a saint by the Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.


6. Mary was one of the few people named in the Gospels who was present at Christ’s crucifixion and the first recorded witness of his resurrection.

7. At the site is also a convent that houses 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.

8. The church is part of the Convent of St. Mary Magdalene, a sisterhood established in 1936 by an English convert, and since the 1920s, has been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), an independent ecclesiastical entity until 2007 and part of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church since then.

9. The magical church is magnificent from a distance, but it is also worth getting a closer look. A tranquil garden surrounds the church. Inside, there are many Orthodox icons and liturgical paintings. The Grand Duchess commissioned Russian artist Sergei Ivanov to create a series of paintings depicting the life of Saint Mary Magdalene.

10. The relics of two martyred saints, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia and her fellow nun Varvara Yakovleva, are displayed in the church.

11. The interior of the church is a blend of bronze and white marble iconostasis, a wall or screen bearing religious icons that separate the sanctuary from the nave, the central part of a church where the congregation usually sits.

12. Its main wall bears a painting of Alexander Ivanov, a prominent 19th-century Russian artist. Commissioned by Elizabeth Fyodorovna, the artwork depicts Mary Magdalene holding a red egg before the Roman emperor Tiberius. According to Eastern Christian tradition, Tiberius mocked her for claiming Jesus rose from the Dead, comparing it to a white egg turning red. In return, an egg Mary held by Mary turned red.


Places of Interest


1. Mount of Olives


2. Dominus Flevit Church


3. Triumphal Entry Path


4. Garden of Gethsemane

5. Kidron Valley


6. Tomb of Mary - Gethsemane Cave


7. Temple Mount


8. Old City Jerusalem

Mary Magdalene in the Bible


1. Mary was from the town of Magdala, located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee..
Matthew 4:23: And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.


Matthew 15:38–39: Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan [Magdala].


2. Jesus cast out 7 demons from Mary Magdalene.
Luke 8:1–3: Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.


3. Mary was likely a wealthy widow as she followed Christ everywhere and supported the ministry of Jesus financially.


4. A strong case could be made that Mary was one of Christ’s most devoted and loyal followers. 
She followed Jesus everywhere and supported Him financially, she was present at the mock trial of Jesus, she heard Pontius Pilate pronounce the death sentence upon Jesus, she saw Jesus beaten and humiliated by the crowd, she was one of the women who stood near Jesus during the crucifixion to try to comfort Him, and she was the first woman Christ appeared to after rising from the dead.


5. Mary looked from a distance at Christ’s crucifixion and then moved in closer during His last suffering hours on the cross.
Mark 15:40: There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.


John 19:25: But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.


6. Mary Magdalene helped buy expensive spices to anoint the body of Jesus after His crucifixion.
Mark 16:1: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.


7. Mary was the earliest witness to the resurrection of Jesus and was sent by Jesus to tell the others.
Mark 16:9: When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.


John 20:11-18: But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.


8. Even at the very end, Mary never lost her first love for Jesus.
Revelation 2:4: But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.


9. There is also no doubt that Mary served Christ alongside the apostles for the rest of her life.


Faith Lesson from the Life of Mary Magdalene


1. Christ cast out 7 demons from Mary. This changed her life forever and filled her with deep gratitude to Jesus. Are we grateful for what God has done for us as well?


2. Mary loved Christ profoundly and was one of His most devoted followers. She is the model of what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Are we devoted to Christ as Mary was?


3. Mary supported Jesus’ ministry financially. Do we support Jesus’ ministries as well?


4. Mary never lost her first love for Christ. Have we lost our first love?


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