Church of Saint John Ba-Harim: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)
Not open to public
Greek Orthodox priest next door will open for viewing.
The Church of Saint John Ba-Harim is dedicated to John the Baptist and built over previous chapels from the Byzantine and Crusader periods. The Greek Orthodox Church owns the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim, not to be confused with the Franciscan church on the Mount of Olives. It’s very easy to see along the Jerusalem skyline with its shiny silver dome. It isn’t often open to visitors but worth the travel, as it is the oldest church Jerusalem.
The Church of Saint John Ba-Harim is located in the Christian Quarter in a small courtyard of trees. Right next to the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim is the Greek Orthodox Monastery. If the priest is present, he will let you into see the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim.
Though there have been measures taken to reinforce the edifice of the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim, much of what visitors see today is from the original 5th century structure. It is a trefoil shape and has three apses and a narthex. The dome is supported by four pillars and makes the central square. The eight windows and painted silver exterior make the dome the main attraction of the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim. From the central square of the Muristan, visitors can clearly see the east side of the church. John the Baptist crypt lies over 6 meters below ground level and can be seen by descending the steps south of the narthex. The crypt is covered with a vaulted roof and contains an altar surrounded by an iron grill.
Empress Eudokia founded the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim in 450. The church could have been built over the relics of John the Baptist. Another tradition has the site as the historic house of Zebedee, father of James and John. However, this could have arisen from confusion between John the Baptist and John the Apostle.
The Patriarch of Alexandria restored the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim after the Persians destroyed it in 614. This major reconstruction took place during the 11th century. Besides the modern front on the church and two small bell towers, the Church of Saint John Ba-Harim looks basically like it did 1,000 years ago.
The church became the headquarters for the Knights Hospitallers. In 1099, Christian knights were cared for at the church after being wounded during the siege on Jerusalem. After recovering, the grateful knights dedicated their time to helping the sick and protecting pilgrims in the Holy Lands. They called themselves Knights of the Hospital of St. John. Later, the military order of the Hospitallers was formed.
The crypt of the church was filled with trash and abandoned by 1187. Once the Greeks regained ownership in 1660, they began reconstruction, restoration of the crypt, completed in the 19th century.