The fourth peregrination to Bethany

//The fourth peregrination to Bethany

The fourth peregrination to Bethany

Every year, the Franciscans of the Holy Land make a weekly Lenten pilgrimage to the shrines commemorating the Passion of Jesus. 

Today, the pilgrimage took place at the Shrine of Friendship, in Bethany. 

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho goes down behind the Mount of Olives, leading to the Arab village of al-Azarìya, which is believed to be the Biblical Bethany. Back in Jesus’ time, Bethany was like a suburb of Jerusalem. Today, the route is longer due to the Separation Wall. In the middle of Bethany, there’s a Franciscan church on top of three older churches, where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived, and where Lazarus was brought back to life. 

In ancient times, the tribe of Benjamin rebuilt Bethany after returning from Babylonian exile. The old name, Bet Hananya, got replaced during the Byzantine period with the current Arabic name, al-Azariya, taking its name most probably from Lazarus. The Franciscan church, dedicated to Martha and Mary, is a reminder of the history and religious events in Bethany. 

Excavations in the 1950s by Fr. Salle, OFM, uncovered a burial ground, remnants of the old village, and artifacts spanning from the 6th and 5th centuries BC to the 16th century AD. The first Byzantine church, part of the Lazarium complex, was built in the 4th century, modeled after Constantine’s basilicas. Destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in the 5th century farther east. The third church, from the Crusader period, saw significant changes under King Fulk of Anjou and Queen Melisenda. 

After Saladin took over in 1187, Bethany’s complex was damaged, and what’s left is now looked after by the Franciscans. The current church, built in 1954 by the Franciscans and architect Antonio Barluzzi, sits on top of the old churches, preserving their mosaics and remains. The church, shaped like a Greek cross, symbolizes resurrection and life, with a Latin inscription emphasizing belief that Christ gives us eternal life. 

The entrance to Lazarus’ tomb changed in the 16th century and leads to a small square-shaped lower room. The discovery of more tombs near Lazarus’ sepulchre highlights the rich history and archaeological finds of this special place. 

2024-03-14T14:57:49-04:00March 14th, 2024|Categories: News|Comments Off on The fourth peregrination to Bethany