King David’s Tomb, Mount Zion and the Vatican

The official position of the Jewish state, as reported in the Israeli press over the last few years, has been that “Israel will not give up sovereignty over any of the holy places.”

February 21, 2018 17:13
Harry Moskoff

Harry Moskoff, holding his book, tours the Western Wall tunnels. (photo credit: HARRY MOSKOFF)


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AN IMPORTANT part of Pope Francis’s visit to Israel back in May 2014 was the prayer Mass he held while visiting the Cenacle, the upper rooms above King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, widely considered to be the site of the Last Supper. The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have made attempts at establishing a chronology based on archaeological evidence and historical sources. Biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner offers some significant dates and events in the building’s history. He states:

“The original building was a synagogue later probably used by Jewish Christians and Disciples. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the building was spared during the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus (AD 70), though Pixner thinks it was likely rebuilt right after the war, and claims three walls of that structure are still extant: the North, East and South walls of the present King David’s Tomb. Roman emperor Theodosius I built an octagonal church (the “Theodosian Church” or “Holy Zion Church”) aside the synagogue (that was named “Church of the Apostles”). The Theodosian Church, probably started in AD 382, was consecrated by John II, Bishop of Jerusalem in AD 394… While the church was destroyed in 1219, the section containing the former synagogue including its upper-floor room (the Cenacle) were spared. In the 1330s, it passed into the custody of the Franciscan Order of Friars, who maintained the structure until 1552, when the Ottoman authorities took possession of it. After the Franciscan friars’ eviction, this room was transformed into a mosque, as evidenced by the mihrab in the direction of Mecca and an Arabic inscription prohibiting public prayer at the site. Christians were not officially allowed to return until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.”


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