In the Gospel of Mark,
the place of the Ascension is not distinctly mentioned. Luke 24:50 states
that the event took place in Bethany while it appears from Acts that it took
place on the Mount Olivet (the "Mount of Olives"). After the Ascension
the apostles are described as returning to Jerusalem from the mount that is
called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, within a Sabbath day's journey. Tradition
has consecrated this site as the Mount of Ascension.
out of fear of persecution for worshiping openly, the early Christians honored
the Ascension by worshiping in a cave nearby. Later, after the conversion of
Constantine, the first church was built on the site around 390 AD by Poimenia,
a pious Roman lady. St. Helena erected over the site a basilica called "Eleona
Basilica" (elaion in Greek means "olive garden", from elaia "olive
tree," and has an oft-mentioned similarity to eleos meaning "mercy")
in 392, which was destroyed by the Sassanid Persians in 614.
The Ascension edicule at Jerusalem
The basilica was rebuilt in the eighth
century, destroyed again, but rebuilt a second time by the Crusaders. This final
church was also destroyed by Muslims, leaving only the octagonal structure (called
a martyrium—"memorial"—or "Edicule") which remains
to this day.
The site was ultimately acquired by two
emissaries of Saladin in the year 1198 and has remained in the possession of
the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem ever since. The martyrium, though now only bare
stone, enshrines the rock said to bear the imprint of the right foot of Christ
as he ascended, and is venerated by Christians as the last point on earth touched
by the incarnate Christ.
The Crusader building was converted to
a mosque but was never used by Muslims since the overwhelming majority of visitors
were Christian. As a gesture of compromise and goodwill, Saladin ordered the
construction of a second mosque and mihrab two years later next door to the
chapel for Muslim worship while Christians continued to visit the main chapel.
This rock inside the Ascension
is said to bear the impression of the right foot of Christ
Though still under the control of the
Moslems, this Chapel of the Ascension is currently opened to visitors for a
The Russian Orthodox Church also maintains
a Convent of the Ascension on the top of the Mount of Olives.