Convent of Sisters of Our Lady of Zion

    A walled 19th Century monastery  built on the west hill of Ein Karem.

  * Site of the Month June 2015 *

 

 

Home > Sites > Jerusalem > Ein Kerem > Convent of  Sisters  of Our Lady

                                                                                               of Zion (Notre Dam De Sion)

 

 

 

 

 

Contents:

Overview

Location

History

Photos

* General views

* Inside

* Church

* West side

* Gardens

Etymology

Links

 

Overview:

 

  The convent of the Sisters  of Our Lady of Zion (Notre Dam De Sion) is located on the western hill of Ein Kerem (Karem). High walls surround the complex, which is operated by nuns since 1861. A large garden surrounds the monastery buildings.

 

Location:

 

   This aerial map shows the location of the convent, on the western side of Ein Kerem.

  Pointing and clicking on selected points in purple will automatically scroll  to the relevant photo or  site.

  

 

History:

 

  The convent was constructed in 1860/1. The place started as an orphanage and as the private house of its owner, the Alphonse Ratisbonne.  He was born to a Jewish family, then converted to Christianity. His tomb is located in the garden.

 

  The convent is operated by the order of nuns of the Zion sisters, and was converted to function as a guest house.

 

The convent in the early 20th Century, as seen from the Russian convent - Matson Collection - Library of Congress

 

 

Photos:

 

(a) General view:

 

  On top of the western hill in Ein Kerem is the 19th Century monastery of Sisters of Our Lady of Zion (Notre Dame De Sion). 

 

Click on the photos to view  in higher resolution...

 

   In the center  is the walled compound of the monastery of Sisters of Our Lady of Zion, seen here from the Russian monastery of the south side .

 

 

  These ancient terraces on the foothills  around the monastery were once used for agriculture. Among the terraces are cisterns, installations and burial caves. According to a survey, the use of terraces started in the Israelite period (Iron age). Most of the terraces are dated to the Hellenistic period when Ein Karem witnessed a growth in population and agriculture activity. Mary's spring and cisterns supplied water to the crops.  

 

 

  The main gate to the Monastery is located on the east side, on the junction of  Ha'Oren (The Pine) street and Derech Ha'Ahayot (The Sisters Way). The place is open to the public on certain visiting hours, and the entrance is through this gate.

 

 

The signage above the gate reads "Notre Dame de Sion - 1861".

 

Ein Kerem: Notre Dame de Sion: the gate

 

   The next photo shows a view from the eastern side of the monastery, with the church towering over the walls of the monastery.

 

Ein Kerem: Notre Dame de Sion: view from the east

 

(b) Inside the Monastery:

 

  Past the gate are offices of the monastery. Two main paved paths lead to the church and to the vast gardens and other structures around the monastery.

 

 

  This path leads along the eastern walls to the church and the main building of the monastery.

 

 

(c) Church and Monastery building:

 

  The Church and other sections of the monastery are closed to the public.   

 

 

  A closer view of the southern side of the monastery is seen below.

 

 

  On the eastern side  is a long portico - an arched hallway, open on its east side to the gardens.

 

 

   The following photo shows the section of the garden adjacent to the main building of the monastery.

 

 

 

    Statues are located in various sections of the monastery and the garden. This beautiful statue -  Mary holding infant Jesus - is titled "Magnificat", which means the Song of Mary - an ancient hymn of Mary.

  The Magnificant hymn recalls the song of Mary while visiting her cousin in Ein Karem, as per Luke 1:46-55. After Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings the Magnificat in response.

 

 

 

 

(d) West side:

 

  Along all sides of the monastery are high walls, with several small gates that provided access to the fields around the complex. In this photo is the western wall.

   In the far background are residential neighborhoods  of Jerusalem.

 

 

  In the valley of Nahal Sorek stream is the reservoir of Beit Zayit.

  There are several neighborhoods seen here:

 

 

  Another north view is seen in the following photo. In the right background are the modern houses of Givat Sha'ul ("Hill of Saul"), established 1906).

 

 

(d) Gardens:

 

  Around the monastery complex as vast gardens, which create a relaxing atmosphere in the convent. In the center of this south view you can see the golden domes of the Russian convent.

 

 

  In the early spring time, between the trees and clinging to the walls, are wild flowers -  such as these cyclamen flowers (Rakefet), which are seen in the photo below.

 

 

  A closer view of the gracious cyclamen (Rakefet) flower. This flower is also known for its healing attributes, used in homeopathic medicine, so this may have been another reason why the nuns planted this flower in the garden.

 

 

 In the garden are other wild flowers such as daisies and red tulips.

 

 

 

Etymology (behind the name):
 

 

 

Links:

 

* BibleWalks sites in Ein Kerem:

 

* Links:

 

* Other internal links:

BibleWalks wild flowers, herbs and plants

 

 

 

BibleWalks.com - traversing the Holy Land

 

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