Sites - Israel: Holy Land Monasteries
Ancient Israel Sites
The Latrun Monastery is located on a rise with a fabulous
view of the Ayalon Valley where God made the moon stand
still (Josh. 10:12). Just across the Jerusalem highway from
Emmaus (Luke 24:13), a stop here makes for a peaceful
interlude for Christian travelers on their way to or from
the Holy City.
The walkways of the monastery, built in the early twentieth
century by French Trappist monks, charmingly frame vineyards
from which they make grape juice and wine, and their church
is an interesting mixture of Byzantine and Gothic styles.
The monks keep a vow of silence, except for those who sell
wine and olive oil to visitors. The name “Latrun” comes from
a twelfth-century castle on this spot called La Tour de
Chevaliers (“the knights tower”). Later travelers believed
the name was connected to the Latin word latro (thief) and
saw this site as the home of the “good thief” crucified next
to Jesus (Luke 23:40-43). (Israel Minister of Tourism)
Mar Saba Monastery
The Greek Orthodox Mar Saba Monastery in the Judean
Desert east of Bethlehem seems to hang precariously from
the walls of the Kidron Valley. But it is as sturdy as
the faith it represents: it was built some 1,500 years
ago, and is one of the oldest still-inhabited monasteries
in the world.
Like the Monastery of St. George to the north, Mar Saba
was founded by monks seeking solitude and to emulate the
prophets, Jesus and John the Baptist. Originally they
lived in caves, but as their founder Mar (Saint) Saba
gained fame for his piety, the monastery was built.
Its dramatic view is a highlight of a trip that many
Christian groups enjoy, traveling by four-wheel-drive
vehicles that can navigate every corner of the desert.
Some visitors even hike down to the monastery, which
women can view from the Womens Tower, and men can enter
to see the church where the remains of St. Saba are
preserved. (Israel Minister of Tourism)
Martyrius Monastery in Wikipedia
The Monastery of Martyrius, now located in the center of the Israeli settlement and city of Ma'ale Adumim, east of
Jerusalem, was one of the most important centres of monastic life in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period.
When Ma'ale Adumim was built in 1982-1985, the remains of the Monastery of Martyrius (Khirbet Murassas) were
discovered on a hill overlooking the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Martyrius was born in Cappadocia (present-day
Turkey). After spending some time at the Laura of Euthymius in 457 CE, he lived as a hermit in a nearby cave. Later,
he served as a priest at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and became Patriarch of Jerusalem (478-486 CE). It is
believed that he built the monastery bearing his name at this time.
The xenodocheion (pilgrim hostelry) was a source of considerable income to the sabaite monks of the coenobium.
Archeological findings -
The square-shaped compound of the monastery covers an area of 2.5 acres (10,000 m2). It is surrounded by walls
preserved to a height of two meters. The gate was located in the eastern wall. A round rolling-stone, 2.5 meters in
diameter, was found inside the gate, probably for additional protection. Numerous rock-cut cisterns and canals were
found for collecting and chanelling rainwater into cisterns.
The monastery was built around a large courtyard and included a church, several chapels, a refectory, a kitchen, a
storeroom, a bathhouse, residential quarters and an animal pen. Outside the wall was a pilgrims hostel.
The main church was paved with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns interspersed with pictures of animals. A Greek
inscription mentions the abbots Genesius and Iohannes.
On the northern side of the complex is a cave in which several skeletons were found. A Greek inscription cites the
names of three priests buried there. It is believed this is the cave where Martyrius lived before joining the church
hierarchy in Jerusalem.
The refectory is surrounded by stone benches and divided by two rows of columns which supported a second story. The
floor, discovered intact, is covered with mosaics in geometrical designs. The kitchen was also paved with mosaics and
contained marble tables. Hundreds of ceramic vessels, cooking pots and wine cups were found there. The hostel
provided guests with a chapel, sleeping quarters and a stable.
The monastery was damaged during the Persian invasion in 614 CE and was abandoned after the Arab conquest in the mid-
The site was excavated by Yitzhak Magen of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Monastery of Saint George
Just a few minutes from the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway,
St. Georges Monastery awaits amid a spectacular biblical
desert where Christian monks maintain their ancient way
St. Georges Monastery began in the fourth century with a
few monks who sought the desert experiences of the
prophets, John the Baptist and Jesus, and settled around
a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens (1
The sixth-century cliff-hanging complex, with its ancient
chapel and gardens, is still inhabited by a few Greek
Orthodox monks. It is reached by a pedestrian bridge
across the Kelt River canyon, which many imagine to be
Psalm 23 Valley of the Shadow, and where shepherds still
watch over their flocks, just as Ezekiel 34 and John
The valley parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the
backdrop for the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke
10:29-37). (Israel Minister of Tourism)
Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness
The name of this Franciscan monastery, built around a spring
on a wooded slope south of Jerusalem, calls to mind the
childhood wanderings of John the Baptist in this region.
Born close by in Ein Karem according to tradition, Luke
tells us that John “grew and became strong in spirit; and he
lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel”
Lukes words take on new meaning here, in a green landscape
we would not normally think of as “desert.” Crystal spring
water flows from an ancient channel to a pool surrounded by
water-loving plants, above a cave once inhabited by
solitude-seeking monks. But one biblical name for
uncultivated land is "midbar", often translated as desert,
but actually meaning pastureland. John, who sought the
purity of such surroundings as these, would certainly have
known these hills like the back of his hand, making this
site an excellent place for open-air Scripture study.
(Israel Minister of Tourism)
Monastery of the Cross
The Monastery of the Cross, located in the Valley of the
Cross in central Jerusalem, enshrines an ancient tradition
that the tree from which the cross of Jesus was made grew
The monastery, near the Israel Museum and the Knesset,
welcomes visitors daily to explore it and relax at its shady
courtyard cafe. The tree is said to have been planted by
Lot, who after realizing his sins, came to Abraham who gave
him branches from pine, fir and cypress trees.
Lot planted them, and they grew miraculously into one tree,
in the spirit of Isaiah 60:13. The church, dating from the
Byzantine period, is adorned with frescoes and an intricate
mosaic floor. (Israel Minister of Tourism)
St. George’s Monastery in Wikipedia
St. George Orthodox Monastery (or Monastery of St. George of Koziba) is located in Wadi Qelt, in
the eastern West Bank, in the Palestinian territories.
The sixth-century cliff-hanging complex, with its ancient chapel and gardens, is still inhabited by
a few Greek Orthodox monks. It is reached by a pedestrian bridge across the Wadi Qelt, which many
imagine to be Psalm 23's Valley of the Shadow, and where shepherds still watch over their flocks,
just as Ezekiel 34 and John 10:1-16 describe.
The valley parallels the old Roman road to Jericho, the backdrop for the parable of the Good
Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
St. George's Monastery began in the fourth century with a few monks who sought the desert
experiences of the prophets, and settled around a cave where they believed Elijah was fed by ravens
(1 Kings 17:5-6).
This Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the late 5th century A.D. by John of Thebes. He became a
hermit and moved to Palestine from Egypt in 480 CE. The monastery was named St. George after the
most famous monk who lived at the site – Gorgias of Coziba. Destroyed in 614 CE by the Persians,
the monastery was more or less abandoned after the Persians swept through the valley and massacred
the fourteen monks who dwelt there. The Crusaders made some attempts at restoration in 1179.
However, it fell into disuse after their expulsion. In 1878, a Greek monk, Kalinikos, settled here
and restored the monastery, finishing it in 1901. The traditions attached to the monastery include
a visit by Elijah en route to the Sinai Peninsula, and St. Joachim, whose wife Anne was infertile,
weeping here when an angel announced to him the news of Mary's conception. The bones and skulls of
the martyred monks killed by the Persians in 614 CE can still be seen today in the monastery
The monastery is located 20 km/12.5 mi from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. There is a sign
posted to the monastery, which goes off on the left from the rather higher north side which there
is the first view of the gorge of the Wadi Qelt. From the parking lot there is a path only suitable
for all-terrain vehicles which runs northeast (about 1.25 hours on foot) to a hill with a cross,
from which there is a view of the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. George and far to the left, a
rivulet flowing down the hillside from a spring, from which water is channeled to the monastery.
The stony track continues (another half-hour's walk), to the entrance to the monastery, which
clings precariously to the sheer north face of the gorge.
St. Simeon’s Monastery
Set in a lovely public garden shaded by pines and cypresses
in the Katamon neighborhood of West Jerusalem, this
monastery is built over the tomb of Simeon, the devout
Jerusalemite who met Joseph and Mary in the Temple where
they brought Jesus as an infant, and who took Jesus in his
arms and prophesied salvation (Luke 2:25-32).
According to an inscription in Greek over the doorway, this
two-story domed complex was built in 1859 and took more than
20 years to complete. Scholars say an inscription in a cave
on the grounds indicates it was the tomb of Simeons priestly
forbears. The monastery gave its name to the neighborhood
surrounding it – Katamon comes from the Greek meaning “near
the monastery.” (Israel Minister of Tourism)
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