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St. George’s Church – Al Khader

» » » » St. George’s Church – Al Khader
Al Khader, Bethlehem

St. George's Church, at the western end of the village of Al Khader, has become a place of pilgrimage for Muslims and Christians alike.

Al Khader is something of a magical figure in Islamic folklore. He is a benevolent spirit who travels the world dispensing justice and good advice. St. George is merely one human manifestation of Al Khader (the Old Testament prophet Elijah is another), and St. George’s defeat of the dragon and the rescue of the damsel in distress are typical of Al-Khader’s style. For this reason, all Christian churches dedicated to St. George are also venerated by Muslims as sites associated with Al Khader.

The present Church, constructed in 1912, is built over the ruins of a 16th century chapel located on the spot where St. George was supposed to have lived for part of his life. Little of this original chapel has survived. The modern edifice has a typically Greek Orthodox interior, with a highly decorated ceiling and walls and a portrait of Christ Pantocrator in the dome. In both Christian and Muslim traditions, St. George is associated with healing the sick, and during the Ottoman Era some of the rooms in the convent were used to house the mentally ill.

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