Convent of Ascension - The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives Convent of the Ascension of Our Lord owes its existence to Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) and Igumen Parthenius. Father Antonin bought land on the summit of the Mount of Olives and in 1870 built the church of Ascension with a bell tower 64 meters (approximately 200 feet) in height. Simultaneously, cisterns were dug, gardens planted, quarters for pilgrims erected and excavations started.
But it was Father Parthenius's wish to establish a monastic community on the site. With this in mind, he started performing services twice a week. Slowly, pious maidens began gathering and in 1906 the Holy Synod formally acknowledge the community.
A year later the sisterhood numbered 100. New buildings were built. For support, the sisters opened an iconpainting studio and did embroidery, which is done to this day.
Tragically, in 1909, Father Parthenius was found stabbed to death in his cell. Neither the criminal was ever found, nor the reason for murder established.
During the First World War the new monastic community found itself in very difficult conditions. Curfew was introduced in Jerusalem and it was not safe to venture outside, prices for foodstuff rose enormously, Turkish soldiers were quartered in the dormitories, and services ceased, because the Mission priests, together with ten senior sisters, were expelled to Egypt.
Patriarch Damianos tried to comfort those who remained, and helped by sending regular portions of wheat. He arranged for the sisters to attend services at Little Galilee. Support, also, came from the Italian consul, and later the American legation.
Unexpectedly, the Turkish authorities demanded that within three days the dormitories be vacated and the sisters leave. Their intent was to set up a military hospital. The sisters had no choice but submit to this demand. However, again, due to Patriarch Damianos's intervention, this exile lasted only seventeen days. Having come back, the sisters found everything in terrible disorder: crosses were removed, the icons in the church were smeared with lime, and the iconostasis in the refectory was damaged. Three hundred Turkish soldiers remained within the walls. Germans officers occupied the Archimandrite's House.
On November 20th, 1918, the British entered Jerusalem, and some of their soldiers took residence at the community. They helped by suppling the sisters with bread, tea and sugar. The English, also, helped financially, by giving the sisters work building the Jericho road.
In the beginning of 1919 the senior members of the community came back from Egypt. In June of the same year, the church was re-opened and soon after the clergy was allowed to return from exile. Slowly, life started coming back to normal.
In 1924, Metropolitan Anthony interceded before the Jerusalem Patriarchate and the Russian community on the Mount of Olives was officially recognized as a convent.
The Byzantine style main church is dedicated to the feast of Ascension. Frescos were painted by the nuns themselves. There are many beautiful icons and relics of saints. The icon of the Mother of God "She Who is Quick to Hear" is revered as miraculous.
The full daily cycle of services are performed in the main church. The feast day of Ascension is solemnly celebrated and brings many faithful together.
The Chapel of St John the Baptist stands where his precious Head was found. The ancient mosaic floor has a cavity, marking the actual place. The feastday of the chapel is on February 24th (March 9th), when the Church celebrates the First (IV century) and Second (452) findings. The Psalter is read in the Chapel in commemoration of the reposed benefactors.
The church in the refectory in dedicated to the Righteous Philaret the Merciful. Services there are conducted once a month. The feast day is on December 1st (14th).
The convent's area is 54,000 square meters, surrounded by a wall, a kilometer and half in length. It has a large olive grove which supplies the sisters with olives and oil.
Today, 46 sisters live at Mount of Olives. Among them are Russians, Arabs, Romanians, Estonians, Australians and Germans.
During the convents almost hundred year existence, the following served as mother superiors:
Schema-abbess Antonia (Abbess Paula) - second time,
Abbess Julianna, and
the present - Abbess Moisseia.
The deputy superior is Mother Raphaela.
Mount of Olives Convent
P.O. Box 19229
Jerusalem 91191, Israel
Tel: 972-2 / 628-4373
Tel: 972-2 / 628-0111
Fax: 972-2 / 628-2367
|© 2005 The Orthodox Scientific Educational Society
"Russia in colours" in Jerusalem