Tomb of Lazarus: While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. (Mark 14:3)
Church of Saint Lazarus: 8am to 11:45am, 2pm to 6pm (closes at 5pm from Nov. – Feb.)
Bethany (al-Azariyya in Arabic) is a Christian and Muslim village on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. This village was the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary (friends of Jesus) and also the site of many events mentioned in the Bible. The Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany has been an important place to see for both Christians and Muslims. There is even a modern Franciscan church dedicated to Lazarus’ resurrection standing in Bethany in the location of much older churches.
Jesus often stayed at the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Christ even raised Lazarus from the dead. In the home of Simon from Bethany, Jesus was anointed and his feet dried with a woman’s hair. In fact, according to the book of Luke, Christ ascended to heaven near Bethany. This is commemorated at the Chapel of the Ascension.
The Tomb of Lazarus draws thousands of Christian pilgrims every year. It is up the hill and can be accessed by ascending the 24 uneven steps made of stone. The modern entrance of the Tomb of Lazarus was probably a tomb cut from rock, but little of the original Tomb of Lazarus remains today. There was a large Crusader church built above it, which is probably the reason for its collapse.
There has been a village called Bethany since at least the Roman era. Near modern day Bethany lies a Iron Age settlement thought to be the Biblical Ananiah in the territory of Benjamin (Neh. 11:32). It is later called Bethany in the New Testament, because Beth Ananiah became Bethany.
There are no records of any church in Bethany from the 4th century. However, both the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333 AD) and Eusebius the historian) record seeing the Tomb of Lazarus located in a crypt or vault. Saint Jerome mentioned visiting the Tomb of Lazarus as the guest room of Martha and her sister Mary. This seems to be the same “Lazarium” written about by the pilgrim Egeria, recorded in her account of the liturgy on Saturday in the Lenten seventh week: “Just on 1:00 everyone arrives at the Lazarium, which is Bethany… by the time they arrive there, so many people have collected that they fill not only the Lazarium itself, but all the fields around.”
An earthquake destroyed this Tomb of Lazarus, then known as the “Lazarium,” in the 6th century. Theodosius mentions a church before 518, and Arculf mentions it around 680. This church survived until the Crusader era. Over the years, the markers for the Tomb of Lazarus have changed hands and forms. By 1955, a modern Franciscan church was built over a Byzantine Church of Saint Lazarus. A Crusader church was built to the east. In 1965, a Greek church was built just to the west of the Tomb of Lazarus. Regardless of religious heritage or type of architecture, the Tomb of Lazarus has long been a sacred destination of Christian pilgrims.