Churches of IsraelJerusalem

The Church of Mary Magdalene

The Church of Mary Magdalene: After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)


Free Entrance
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10-noon
Phone: 02/628-4371

TheChurch of Mary Magdalene


The Church of Mary Magdalene is very distinctive from the other churches in Jerusalem. Its gold plated “Kremlin-like” domes stand high above the Jerusalem skyline. The Church of Mary Magdalene is located at Gethsemane, Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Tsar Alexander III commissioned the Church of Mary Magdalene to be built in 1888. With seven gilded domes and white turrets, it looks like a building straight out of a fairytale.

There is a garden and a crypt outside of the Church of Mary Madeline. The crypt holds the remains of Tsar Alexander’s mother Grand Duchess Elizabeth who died in1917 during the Russian revolution. Princess Alice of Greece (Grand Duchess Elizabeth’s mother-in-law) is also buried here. Princess Alice harbored Jews during the Nazi occupation of Greece.

The Church of Mary Magdalene was named after Elizabeth’s patron saint. Mary Magdalene was a follower of Christ who was delivered of many demons, was present at the crucifixion and was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.

The inside of the church is just as impressive as the large golden domes. The interior walls are lined with what looks like marble. It is actually white sandstone! The first floor is classic with simple lines. Above the entrance, on the second level, are “lace like” designs lining a gabled roof. Within the gable is a blue mosaic of Mary Magdalene in great white garments. This entire mosaic is framed in gold within the gable.

The beauty of the Church of Mary Magdalene continues up into the third floor. The third level is decorated with an upside-down serrated roof, beautiful arches and stunning scalloped windows. At the top of this sit the seven gilded domes with a Russian Orthodox cross on the top of each.

The bell tower is rung with square pillars and is shaped like a rook. There is a large silver cone and several windows above the bells. Another dome with a Russian Orthodox cross on top caps the bell tower.

Eastern Orthodox churches typically have a partition that separates the prayer hall from the rest of the sanctuary called an Iconostasis. The Iconostasis of the Church of Mary Magdalene is a canvas created by Ivanov. It paints the belief that Mary Magdalene traveled all the way to Rome to tell the Emperor about Jesus’ unfair trial and sentence.

The tradition has it that Mary held an egg in her hand to represent life. It turned red when she gave it to the Emperor, thus symbolizing Jesus’ blood. The Christian tradition of dying Easter eggs could have come from this religious tradition.

TheChurch of Mary Magdalene


Grand Duchess Elizabeth was one of Russia’s most memorable saints. During the inauguration ceremony of the Church of Mary Magdalene in 1888, she told those at the ceremony that she wanted to be buried within its walls. During the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, Elizabeth was put to death by the Bolshevik rebels. She was then sent to the Church of Mary Magdalene to be buried.

When Elizabeth married the Grand Duke Sergei, she converted to the Russian Orthodox Religion. She devoted much of her time to the church and other charitable endeavors. She helped with the Church of Mary Magdalene by supervising the artwork and bringing V.V. Vereshoguine and Sergei Ivanov to be the artists.

A revolutionist threw a bomb at Elizabeth’s husband Sergei. She visited the cell to beg the criminal to repent, but he told Elizabeth that he didn’t regret his actions. Following Sergei’s death, Elizabeth entered a convent and helped the poor. Ten years later, the entire Tsar’s family was sentenced to death.
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