Mount Zion is located in Jerusalem outside of the Old City walls south of the Zion Gate which leads into the Armenian Quarter, in the past the location of Mount Zion has been in dispute as the Temple Mount was originally referred to as Mount Zion but today this Mount has earned the name.
The mount is thought to have been the site of a fortress belonging to the ruling Jebusite tribe before they were conquered in the 1st century BC by King David. The city then became the City of David and the name Zion synonymous with Jerusalem. The Jebusite fortress on the Mount is referred to as Zion in 2 Samuel 5:7 in other places in the Bible the word Zion is used in reference to a location in Jerusalem on a hill or mountain. Mount Zion would have been the highest point in ancient Zion and the ideal location for a temple or Palace. The approach to Mount Zion is up Pope’s Way, which was constructed in honor of Pope Paul IV’s visit in 1964.
What to see on Mount Zion
In 1900 The Dormition Abbey was built on the orders of Kaiser Wilhelm II to show his support for the German Catholic community in Jerusalem. Today the church, now called Hagia Maria Sion Abbey is a Benedictine abbey used by German Catholic Monks, it is recognizable by it’s conical steeple and round tower which offers panoramic views of the city. The church stands where Mary, mother of Jesus fell asleep before she passed away and ascended to heaven. Within the church you can see well preserved floor mosaics and liturgical art as well as several chapels and a statue of Mary together with statues of notable female Biblical figures.
The Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu is a Roman Catholic Church located on a slope of Mount Zion overlooking the Kidron Valley and commemorates the Biblical story of Peter denying Jesus Christ three times before the cock’s crow in the morning. You can see the figure of a golden rooster on the roof of the church. The church is built on the remains of a Byzantine church and is believed to stand on the location of the House of Caiaphas, Gallicantu meaning “cock crowing”. Outside the church there are statues of three of the stories protagonists, a rooster, a woman and a Roman soldier. On the site you can see Byzantine mosaics from an earlier structure and in the church exquisite artwork depicting scenes from the Bible. On the ceiling is an incredible stained glass window shaped like a cross. Beneath the church are caves dating back to the second Temple, it is thought that Jesus may have been kept here over night in one of the grottos following his arrest.
Within a Crusader building you can find the Tomb of King David where the sarcophagus of King David stands and on the upper floor the Room of the Last Supper (Coenaculum) where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples on the night of his arrest which lead to his crucifixion.
Other interesting sites on Mount Zion include the Protestant Cemetery where several well know figures are buried. In the Catholic graveyard on the southern slope you can also find the grave/tomb of Oskar Schindler the gentile hero of WWII who helped save many Jewish lives. Mount Zion has been used as a graveyard for more than 3000 years and over 210,000 burials have taken place here.
The Chamber of the Holocaust is a candle lit cellar which serves as a memorial and museum dedicated to individuals and communities lost during the Holocaust.
Being higher than the Old City Mount Zion is the best place to get a bird’s eye view into the Old City, from here you can see the many pilgrim sites and iconic buildings of Jerusalem.