The Pater Noster Convent
Jesus Taught the Lord's Prayer in this Cave
Location – The Mount of Olives
Map Coordinates - 31.778095, 35.245078
Merged Gospels stories - 138, 234-242
This church is always a top priority when we lead our Octagon Tour groups through the Holy Land.
When Jesus came to the city of Jerusalem, like most out-of-town visitors in His day, He often camped out on the Mount of Olives. “Pater Noster” is Latin for “Our Father”, which are the first two words in the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father Who is in Heaven…”. Jesus actually taught the Lord’s prayer twice, once during the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee (Matthew 6:5-13), and later, to a completely different audience right here, on the Mount of Olives. (Luke 11:1-4)
The Eleona Cave.
There was a book written in the 2nd century called the Acts of John, and in chapter 97 it mentions a cave on the Mount of Olives where Jesus used to teach His disciples. In the early fourth century, the historian, Eusebius (260-340 AD) records that the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine, built a church here over this cave. The word Eleona is Greek for olive grove.
It is believed that the early persecuted Church used to meet secretly in this cave to celebrate the ascension of Christ; that is, the moment when He was taken up into Heaven. After Christianity was legalized, and after Saint Helena the mother of Constantine, arrived to build churches around Jerusalem, the place where Christians celebrated the ascension of Jesus was moved uphill to the Chapel of the Ascension. This spot retained the reputation as being the place where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer.
This Byzantine Church that was commissioned by Helena survived intact for almost 200 years. However, it was demolished in 614 AD after a 21-day siege of Jerusalem by the Persian army. The cave underneath the church where Jesus met with His disciples was entirely covered with rubble. And when the Persians killed over 1000 Christians on this very mountain, all knowledge of the cave’s whereabouts died with them. The cave just simply disappeared into the history books.
This church continued to lay in ruins until the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 AD, and later they built a small church here in 1152 AD. The Crusaders called this the Church of Pater Noster, and that’s what we’ve been calling this place for almost 900 years.
The Crusaders also found some marble plaques on this site where the Lord’s Prayer was inscribed in Greek and Hebrew. Modern archeologists have also uncovered a third plaque inscribed in Latin.
When the Muslims eventually defeated the Crusaders in 1187 AD, this small Crusader church was badly damaged. And by 1345 AD it had been entirely destroyed by an Egyptian Mamluk caliphate.
The Lord’s Prayer.
Princess Aurélie de la Tour d'Auvergne
In the year 1856 AD an aristocratic widow named Aurélie de la Tour d'Auvergne, who had a special love for the Lord’s Prayer, decided to purchase all of these ruins, and it is here where she built a convent and a European-styled cloister.
Aurelie apparently heard about the plaques with the Lord’s Prayer inscribed in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and it seems that this inspired her to continue this tradition by building 39 more plaques, all in different languages, all to be displayed on the walls of this church. Today there are almost four times as many plaques all over the walls of this church, each one reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer in English
Aside from building the convent and the cloister on this site, Princess Aurelie tried to find the ancient cave where Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, which was spoken about by Byzantine historians, but she never did. And neither did she ultimately build the church that she had envisioned. Aurelie died in 1889, and her sarcophagus is in this convent.
The sarcophagus of Princess Aurelie at the Pater Noster Covent.
The Unfinished Church.
In 1910, archeologists finally discovered this long-lost cave. They noticed that there was a first-century tomb inside of it, so they knew that the cave must have existed during the time of Jesus. They also discovered some of the foundations of the original Byzantine Church that once stood here.
Now that the holy cave and the church’s original foundations had been found, in 1915 it became the passion of the Catholic Carmelite Cloistered Sisters, who are the custodians of the site, to complete Princess Aurelie’s vision, and reconstruct the ancient Byzantine church at this location. Sadly, their money ran out in 1927, and the church was never finished.
The walls that visitors see around the nave today would have been the walls of this great church. They are built with the same dimensions as the original Byzantine church that once stood here. One can see the raised sanctuary platform, and a throne in the center of this platform. The garden outside the three doors of the church is the same size as the original church’s atrium. But a century has gone by, and the church today is nothing more than an empty shell, entirely open to the sky.
A panoramic view of the Eleona Cave at the Pater Noster Convent
The Olivet Discourse.
The fourth-century historian, Eusebius (260-339 AD), tells us something very interesting about this cave. He says, “in this cave the Saviour of the Universe introduced to the members of His group indescribable mysteries”. That means it’s very likely that in this cave Jesus delivered what is called The Olivet Discourse - a mysterious teaching where He prophesied about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, the signs of the end times, and the moment that He would return to earth for the final apocalypse.
In this teaching, Jesus, first of all, proved that He could foretell the future, since He spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem thirty-seven years before the city was overrun by the Romans. He warned us of the signs that would signal the end of this present age. It was right here that He prophesied that the Gospel would endure forever, when He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (See Merged Gospels story 238). If you were in this cave 2000 years ago, you would have heard His promise to return to the earth, when He said, “The Son of Man will be coming in a cloud, with much power and much glory” (See Merged Gospels story 237).
If you are one of those who loves the Lord with all of your heart, then there’s a promise that He made in this room for you. He said “Come, you who are blessed by My Father. Inherit the Kingdom that has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)