Mary in Jerusalem


The Bordeaux Pilgrim (333) – Mary is absent from the map of the Bordeaux pilgrim, even in Bethlehem.

Egeria (fifty years later)  – Egeria makes no mention of specific sites dedicated to Mary.

Epiphanius (320-403) – In his Panariaon Epiphanius presents aberrant beliefs about Mary’s death as ‘popular misconceptions that he thinks could lead to heretical devotion’.

Jerome (347-420) – Jerome relates that Mary took part in the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt, but he mentions no distinct site dedicated to her. (386 A.D.)

Theodosius (530) – Theodosius mentions three places devoted to Mary : the Kathisma church on the road to Bethlehem; the tomb in the valley of Jehoshaphat and the site in Jerusalem where she was born, near the pool of Bethesda.

Pilgrim of Piacenza (570) – The Pilgrim of Piacenza states that he saw in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher an icon of the Blessed Mary, her girdle, ‘and the band which she used to have on her head’.  In addition to the other, he mentions the New Church of St Mary (Nea) built by Justinian.  This church was bigger than all the other churches in Jerusalem.  Justinian wanted its glory to exceed that of Solomon’s Temple.


Most traditions relating to the biography of Jesus are based on the NT; most related to Mary derive from Apocryphal literature.

After the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empires, Constantinople was made into ‘the City of the Virgin’.   As early as the 4th decade of the fifth century, the Armenian lectionary bears evidence of a feast commemorating Marin in the Kathisma church on 15 August and other feasts followed: Annunciation (25 March), Mary’s Nativity (8 Sept) , her Presentation in the Temple (21 Nov) and, most importantly, her death (15 Aug).

At the Council of Ephesus in 431 Mary is declared Theotokos – Mother of God.   By the 7th century the cult of the Virgin in the East “had reached a pitch that could hardly be surpassed”.

The 11th and 12th centuries saw rise of Marian devotion in the West.  She was called Maria Regina, crowned, radiant and surrounded by angels; the mediatrix, mother of all humans.

“Pilgrims coming from Europe in the twelfth century could see the site of Mary’s original house, not its replica; the cave of the milk in Bethlehem, the source of the milk relics; the place where she tore her hair during the Crucifixion and the tomb in which her venerated garments were left behind. They could locate in space the events narrated in hagiography and celebrated in liturgy.”  (Mary in Jerusalem 2014, 17)

The cult of the Virgin reached its peak in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries among the Franciscans.


Bianka Kuhnel, G. N.-B., Hanna Vorholt, Ed. (2014). Mary In Jerusalem. Visual Constructs of Jerusalem. Turnhout, Belgium, Brepols Publishers

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