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The Monastery of the Cross

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Is This Where the Wood From the Cross was Harvested?

Location - Jerusalem

Map Coordinates - 31.771960, 35.208261

The Monastery of the Cross is a solitary Byzantine structure located west of the Old City of Jerusalem. Tradition suggests that this monastery stands on the site from which the wood used to build the cross of Christ was harvested.


The monastery appears to have been founded no later than the 5th century, though no two sources agree on who founded it. It was later destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD – the army that destroyed almost everything related to Jesus throughout Jerusalem. As a reminder, the Persians adhered to the religion of Zoroastrianism, which practiced the worship of many gods.

After lying in ruins for about 400 years, the monastery was rebuilt in the 11th century by a Georgian monk, named Prochorus. By the 14th century, the monastery had become the center of the Georgian community in Jerusalem. However, due to heavy debt the monastery was sold by the Georgians to the Greek Orthodox Church in 1685 AD, who later restored and repaired it in the 1960s and 70s.

The monastery remains active today, and visitors are permitted to wander freely around the complex. It contains a main chapel, living quarters for monks, several courtyards, a small museum with exhibits that illustrate monastic life in the past, an old refectory (dining hall) and kitchen, a coffee shop and a gift shop.

Site Description.

The frescos in the main chapel were repainted in the 17th century, based on 13th century originals, and they show an unusual combination of Christian, pagan, and worldly images. The simple dome is one of the church's most beautiful features. To the right of the main altar is a mosaic floor, which is all that remains of the 5th-century church that was destroyed by the Persians.

The current exterior fortress-like appearance of buttressed walls and high windows confirm that its location was originally an isolated site outside the protective walls of the city. And in the age of growing hostility toward Christianity, these protective walls gave the monks inside a sense of security.

The chapel of the Monastery of the Cross.

On the left side of the chapel is a doorway that leads to a narrow passageway with displays of old ceremonial attire in glass cabinets. Beneath the altar there is a circular plate that surrounds the place where the tree of the cross is supposed to have stood.

The plate at the bottom of this altar marks the spot where the tree stood.

Behind the chapel there are heavily-restored medieval frescoes on the walls that tell the story of the tree.

The Story of the Tree.

The legend goes like this. Abraham met with three heavenly visitors (Genesis 18:1-15) who give him three staffs made of cedar, cypress and pine. After Sodom was destroyed, Abraham then gave the staffs to his nephew, Lot. Lot then plants the staffs at this location and irrigated them with water from the Jordan River. The three woods then grow into a single tree. Centuries later the tree was cut down and a beam prepared for the cross.

It would seem to me that DNA analysis of the fragments of wood from the “True Cross” that are on display in various locations, including the Holy Sepulcher, would be able to confirm the story that is told in the monastery. However, to date I know of no such study that has been done.

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