Church of Mary Magdalene
The spiritual centre of the Convent is certainly the church of Mary Magdalene. Pilgrims that come to the Holy Land always visit this church, which is located in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the very foot of the Mount of Olives. A little higher up the slope, there is the Tomb of the Mother of God - another shrine dear to any Christian.
Grand Dukes Konstantin, Sergei and Pavel
The church in honour of Saint Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene was built after the sons of Emperor Alexander II Grand Dukes Sergei and Pavel, as well as their cousin Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, visited Jerusalem in May 1881. Their pilgrimage was timed to the anniversary of the death of Empress Maria Alexandrovna.
As you might know, the wife of Alexander II dreamed of visiting the Holy Land on her own, but she never got to do it because of her poor health. Despite this, during her lifetime the Empress always supported Russian institutions on the Palestinian land, generously donating funds and remaining their loyal patroness. In memory of Maria Alexandrovna, the sons of the emperor bought land to start the construction of a church in honour of her patron saint - Mary Magdalene. Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) gave this idea to the Grand Dukes. It was he who pointed out the best place for the construction of the church - the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.
Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin)
Archimandrite Antonin, the head of the Russian spiritual mission in Jerusalem, actively took part in the construction of the church. He personally supervised the work. Construction started in 1885 and took about three years. The inscription made during the laying of the foundation can still be read. It says, “This sacred church in the name of Saint Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene, was founded by the will of the most pious Sovereign Emperor Alexander Alexandrovich and His brothers, the Grand Dukes Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei and Pavel, in memory of their deceased mother, the most pious Empress Maria Alexandrovna.”
It is also worth mentioning that the construction project was created by the famous architect David Grimm.
Construction of the Church of Mary Magdalene
The church was consecrated in 1888. On this occasion, Grand Duke Sergei, the Chairman of the Imperial Palestinian Society, came to the Holy Land together with his wife, Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna and his brother Grand Duke Pavel. Elisabeth Feodorovna felt special grace in Jerusalem and wished to be buried in the Holy Land. As we know, her desire later came true.
Now we hold our breath, look with admiration at five golden cupolas of the Mary Magdalene church and realise that it really is one of the most beautiful and majestic churches of the Holy Land.
Relics of the Convent
One of the main relics of the Convent is the image of Saint Mary Magdalene, inside of which a particle of her holy relics is sealed.
The wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God called "Hodegetria", which became famous in 1554 is also there. According to the tradition of the Church, Metropolitan of the Lebanese Mountains Elijah was presented with this amazing icon. However, after Saint Catherine and Saint Barbara appeared before him, he gifted the icon to the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene
Of course, many pilgrims know that the incorrupt relics of Holy New Martyrs Elizabeth and Nun Barbara are located there as well. They rest in white marble reliquaries on both sides of the altar. At the moment, the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene is administered by the ROCOR.
Many Christians, who visit the Convent for consolation and intercession of the saints, find spiritual peace. That is why there is nothing surprising in the fact that every time you visit this wonderful Convent, you will be able to see an endless stream of pilgrims, which is unlikely to ever stop.
The Feast of the Protection is perhaps one of the brightest and most joyful feasts of the Orthodox liturgical calendar in this part of the world. The Mother of God will provide and comfort us if we pray fervently to her.