Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

11 February 2016 STS- Jerusalem
By Mwampoteki Joseph, M. Afr.

It was around 8.45 of 11th February 2016 when we, the first year students of the STS, started the Topographical Visit with our guide, Fr. Paul Vonck. We visited several places including St. Peter in Gallicantu, The Tomb of David, the Cenacle or Upper Room and Dormition Abbey.

Our first visit was to St. Peter in Gallicantu. This is where Peter, the disciple of Jesus, denied Christ (Mt 26:33-35). It is a traditional holy place that was venerated for the first time during the crusaders’ epoch. Under the crypt of the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu there is a cave like cistern that was used as a prison and it is traditionally believed that this is where Jesus was imprisoned the night he was arrested. Just outside the pit/prison of Christ, there are first-century remains showing that there was an agricultural community inhabiting the place.

Secondly, we visited the Tomb of King David and the Upper Room, or Cenacle.

“Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, the teacher says, ‘where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.” (Mk 14:14-15)

This room is venerated not only for the Last Supper meal, but also as the place where Christianity began because this is where Pentecost took place. The early Christians called the area around the Last Supper room, Mount Zion. This name was used by the Jewish community of the time referring to the Temple Mount. However, it was used even before the Temple, referring to the city of David. Today the burial place of King David is venerated just below the Last Supper room (many Jewish people pray there).

It is in this area, Mount Zion, where the mother of Jesus died. These major events happened at the village called Mount Zion at the epoch and which tells us that the village was Christian. Actually, the place is in the care of the German Benedictine Monks. There is a beautiful church called Dormition Abbey built by the Germans in the early 20th century. It is under this church that the death of Mary is venerated.

The word Zion is now used to refer to one of the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem – the Zion Gate. It is situated at the South-East of the city. It is this gate which connects Dormition Abbey (Mount Zion) to the Old City. The gate has marks of bullets that struck the gate during the wars of the 20th century.
We were all happy to visit and see where our origins as Christians began. Thanks to all the students who were present, and thanks also to Fr. Paul for helping us discover our history.

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