Church of Augusta Victoria: Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (Psalm 23:5)
The Church of Augusta Victoria actually includes a church as well as a hospital. Both the church and the hospital are located on the north side of the Mount of Olives, really on Mount Scopus along the road that leads to all the churches on Mount of Olives. This church and adjoining hospital, built in 1910, was named after the Empress August Victoria, wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Today it is an Arab hospital.
It has a strategic and elevated position on the mountain. This has made it the obvious choice for both the Ottomans and the British when a fort was needed in conflict. The hospital sits on the north side of this lovely church and is open to the public.
The bell tower of the Church of Augusta Victoria stands 60 meters high with four bells, making it one of Jerusalem’s skyline landmarks. The largest bell was shipped from Hamburg , Germany and required that the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem be rebuilt.
There is a garden on the east side of the Church of Augusta Victoria. There the visitor will notice statues of eagles. The eagle is the imperial sign of Germany. This symbol was adapted in the 9th century AD by Charlemagne, who was a Frankish king who gathered all the people of Germany together. He placed an eagle on the top of his palace. In fact, since the 12th century, the eagle has been used on the German coat of arms.
The interior of the Church of Augusta Victoria is breath taking. Lofty arches greet the visitor whose eyes are drawn to the frescos and mosaics adorning this beautiful church. There is even an ornately decorated dome above the altar.
There are side doors by the altar. These, too, are ornately decorated. On has a Christian symbol that has the intersection of the Greek letters Chi and Rho, which has historically stood for Christ, because they are the first two letters in Christos in the Greek. Joining this symbol are the letters Alpha and Omega, representing the Christ is the beginning and end of all things. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last.
Church of Augusta Victoria History:
The compounds, which included a hospice, church and bell tower was designed by German architect Robert Leibnitz. The cornerstone laying ceremony took place on March 1907, and the building culminated in 1910. The hospital portion of the Church of Augusta Victoria served as a hospice for pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ until 1914. The church was German Protestant. Incidentally, it was the first church to have electricity in Jerusalem!
During WWI, the Turks used the Church of Augusta Victoria as their army headquarters. Just a few years later, the British used the hospice portion of the church as their headquarters after they occupied the Holy Land.
The Church of August Victoria was badly damaged after a huge earthquake in 1927. It was repaired, and the hospice became a hospital to British soldiers during WWI. From 1948 to 1967, the UN owned the Church of Augusta Victoria because it sat on the buffer zone (Mount Scopus) between Israel and Palestine. The 6 day war damaged the second floor, but it is still in use today.