Chapel of the Ascension
Near the top of the Mount of Olives stands a structure that appears to be a blend of Christian Crusader style architecture with elements of Muslim tradition. This building marks the spot from which Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection (Acts 1:5-11).
Since the 13th century it has been under the control of Muslims who converted it into a mosque, transforming the earlier Crusader edifice by walling in the arches and roofing
it over with an Islamic style dome. The exterior octagonal walls are still decorated with arches and slim marble columns. Engraved on the capitals we see entwined foliage.
Also included is an animal motif featuring winged creatures and birds’ heads.
Inside, imbedded in a rock under glass, is a footprint which is identified according to Christian tradition as the print that was left by Jesus when he ascended: “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)
It is probable that the earliest Christians honored the Ascension of Christ by meeting in a cave not far from here, somewhere on the Mount of Olives. They probably did this out of concern for their safety. This location was originally marked by Constantine’s mother, Helena, on which a church was built at the end of the 4th century as a memorial chapel.
At that time the footprint was more accessible and was surrounded by sand, some of which pilgrims were allowed to take home with them. That structure existed until the 7th century when it was destroyed by the Persians.
It was then rebuilt, maintaining its Christian character until the Arab conquest.
Nearby can be seen a Russian Orthodox church, built in the late 19th century. This marks yet another site believed to be that of the ascension.