May 12, 2009 / 9:06 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: Holy sites on the papal tour

(Reuters) - Following is a list of holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth that Pope Benedict plans to visit during his Holy Land pilgrimage.



* Pope will visit on Tuesday morning.

* It is home to the gilded 7th-century Dome of the Rock, a fixture of the Jerusalem skyline, and built over the spot where Jews, Muslims and Christians believe Abraham was about to sacrifice his son to God before an angel stayed his hand.

The 8th-century al-Aqsa mosque also stands on the stone esplanade. Judaism’s Western Wall, a Jewish prayer site believed to be a perimeter wall of the second biblical Temple, is below.

* In Muslim tradition, Mohammad ascended into heaven from the rock at the center of what is now the Dome of the Rock.

* The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism. Jews believe biblical King Solomon built the first temple there 3,000 years ago. A second temple was razed by the Romans in AD 70.

* Muslims see al-Haram al-Sharif as the third holiest site after the cities of Mecca and Medina in modern Saudi Arabia.

* Christians believe Jesus taught at the temple during the Roman period and drove out money-changers.

* Israel captured the site in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it with the rest of East Jerusalem and adjoining parts of the West Bank in a move not recognized internationally.

* The compound is administered by an Islamic trust known as the Waqf. Jordan’s king also has a role in maintaining the site.

* Many, but not all, Jews believe they are forbidden by ritual law from visiting the Temple Mount out of fear they might tread on sacred ground where the faithful believe the Holy of Holies, which enshrined the Ark of the Covenant, once stood.

* A Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 after then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the compound.


* Pope will visit at noon (5:00 a.m. EDT) on Tuesday.

* The spot — the “Upper Room” in Latin — where Christian tradition says Jesus attended The Last Supper. The hall on Mount Zion, just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, was constructed by the Crusaders and renovated by the Franciscans during the Middle Ages. Some Jews believe a cave at the site is the Tomb of King David, but archaeologists dispute this.


* Pope to hold open-air mass there at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

* A garden below the Mount of Olives, it is believed to be the site where Jesus had his final prayer before he was betrayed and arrested. A Franciscan church at the site was built in 1924 over the ruins of a 12th century Crusader church.


* Pope to visit on Friday morning.

* The traditional site, encompassing Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified and the tomb where he was buried and resurrected. A church was first built there in the 4th century under Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, whose mother, Queen Helena, had visited the site and identified it as the place of Jesus’s resurrection. Though deep inside today’s Old City, it lay beyond the walls in early Roman times.

Control over the grounds of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is divided, not without tension, among Christian denominations.


* Pope to visit West Bank town of Bethlehem on Wednesday.


* Bounded by the Church of the Nativity and Omar mosque and ringed by cafes, souvenir shops and tourism center, the square is the site of globally televised Christmas events. It takes its name from the manger for animal feed where Jesus was born.


* The fortress-like church is built over the Grotto of the Nativity, where a 14-point star on a marble stone marks the spot revered as the site of Jesus’s birth. The church, first built in the 4th century, is one of the oldest continuously operating Christian houses of worship in the world. When, in 2002, Palestinian militants sought sanctuary in the church, which has Catholic, Greek and Armenian parts, Israeli troops mounted a five-week siege before the gunmen surrendered.


* Pope visits Israeli town of Nazareth on Thursday.


* The modern church, topped by a 55-meter-high (180 ft) dome, was dedicated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI during his visit to the Holy Land. Built over the remains of Byzantine and Crusader churches in the town where Jesus grew up, it contains a grotto in which, tradition says, the Virgin Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Son of God. Nazareth is the biggest Israeli town with a majority Arab population.

Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Sophie Hares

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