Church of the Seat of Mary

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Coordinates: 31°44′21″N 35°12′46″E / 31.7392°N 35.2128°E / 31.7392; 35.2128 The Church of the Seat of Mary, Greek: Ecclesia Kathismatis, from Kathisma "Seat", which is also the name mostly used in literature, was a 5th-century Byzantine church in the Holy Land, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It was built on the supposed resting place of Mary on the road to Bethlehem mentioned in the Proto-Gospel of James. The church was built when Marian devotion first rose to great importance, following the Council of Ephesus of 431. It is the first church known to have been dedicated to the Theotokos (Mary the God-bearer) in the entire Byzantine Empire.


Its remains were discovered accidentally during construction work of Highway 60 in 1992 near Mar Elias Monastery. The course of the highway was shifted to avoid damage to the site, so that the ruins are now just off the road, at the municipal border between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The site was excavated in 1997.


Archaeological excavations revealed a large church, originally built in the 5th century and restored in the 6th. It was turned into a mosque in the 8th century, and destroyed shortly after.

The building had an octagonal floor plan measuring 43 m x 52 m, comparable to that of the 4th-century Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and other Byzantine churches, imitated in the construction of the Muslim Dome of the Rock in the late 7th century.[1] Most of the rooms of the church were paved in coloured mosaics of floral and geometric designs, some of them added in the 8th century.

Ancient sources[edit]

The 6th-century De Situ Terrae Sanctae claims that the influential Byzantine court official Urbicius had the rock cut into rectangular shape, like an altar, and intended to have it moved to Constantinople, but no-one was able to move it.[2]

The church is mentioned in a 6th-century Life of Theodosius the Cenobiarch. According to this text, both the church and the monastery of Kathisma were built by a wealthy widow called Ikelia (Iqilia, Hicelia) during the reign of bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem (r. 450–458). Theodosius is said to have lived in the monastery as a young monk.

See also[edit]

  • Ramat Rachel, nearby kibbutz, site of a related Byzantine monastery


  1. ^ Avner, Rina "The Dome of the Rock in Light of the development of Concentric Martyria in Jerusalem" in Muqarnas: An annual on the visual cultures of the Islamic World Vol 27 (2010), 43f.
  2. ^ ed. Gildemeister (1882), p. 28.

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