The construction of a Russian church in the Ottoman Empire was part of the grand strategy of the major European powers in the nineteenth century to “grace” the Holy City with buildings in the styles of their own country – sort of a holy colonialism.
The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene
The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Mary Magdalene with its bold Muscovite style with seven golden onion domes is situated on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane. The church is plainly visible, its shining white a sharp contrast to the green of the mountainside.The convent is located directly across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount. Each cupola is topped by a tall Russian Orthodox cross. The church was consecrated in 1888.
It was built by Russian Czar Alexander III as a memorial his mother and named for her patron saint, Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene was one of the few persons named in the Gospels as being present at Christ’s crucifixion and who was the first recorded witness of his Resurrection. (John 20:1-18; Mark 16:9) Mary Magdalene is venerated by the East Orthodox Church, which believes that Mary was not a prostitute as some streams of Christianity have claimed, but was instead a virtuous woman her entire life. She is considered an important disciple of Jesus, and seemingly his primary female associate, along with Mary of Bethany, whom some believe to have been the same woman.
Open: Tuesday and Thursday, 10am-noon
The Convent of St. Mary Magdalene
About 30 Russian Orthodox nuns live in the convent. The sisters are particularly known for their liturgical singing, painted icons, embroided vestments and decorated Russian eggs.