Church of the Ascension: And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:51)
Hours: 8am to 6pm (4:30 pm in Winter)
The Russian Convent and the Church of the Ascension is located in the village of al-Tur, just south of the Mount of Olives Hotel on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is located near a tall tower in the center of the village.
According to religious tradition the Russian Church of the Ascension marks the spot where Christ ascended into Heaven 40 days after his resurrection. There is a small chapel behind the Russian Church of the Ascension dedicated to John the Baptist. According to another traditional belief, the head of John the Baptist was found in a cavity underneath the mosaic floor in an ancient Armenian Chapel once located on the site.
The 64 meter tower was built during the construction of the convent (1870-1887). It was the first operational bell in the Ottoman-owned city. The Russian Church of the Ascension is a hexagonal building with a cape on top built in the Neo-Byzantine style. Behind the church there is a rock protected by a blue fence. This is supposedly where Mary stood and watched Christ ascend into Heaven. Above the rock, on the wall behind is the Russian cross. It is a cross with a tilted bar at the bottom. It either stands for the two robbers crucified with Christ. The top edge is the “good one” who repented, and the bottom edge is for the “bad one” who did not. However, another theory is that the bar represents the wood Christ rested his weight on during the agonizing crucifixion.
To the north of the church behind the cemetery is the chapel dedicated to John the Baptist. It has a bright red door drawing visitors to enter. There is a green cage marking the place the head of John the Baptist was found. There are still portions of the 6th century Byzantine mosaics left on the floor. The hole where the head was supposedly found has not been repaired, but rather preserved as a sacred site.
During the 5th century, the Armenian Church built two buildings. One was dedicated to John the Baptist. Their beautiful mosaic floors were uncovered when the convent began building on the site. The Russian Church of the Ascension and the c0nvent were both built from 1870-1887 during the Ottoman period. The Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin initiated the construction as part of the Holy Land Projects in an effort to expand the Russian church’s presence in Jerusalem. The bell tower was also constructed next to the Russian Church of the Ascension to symbolize Christ’s ascension into Heaven.
Antonin Kapustin died in 1894, and his remains are buried in the left side of the entrance of the church. Father Parthenius organized the church, which was recognized in 1906. He was stabbed to death in 1909, and his remains are also on the premises of the Russian Church of the Ascension.