Where to go Guide
One of the most beautiful places of worship in the Holy Land is the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, situated on a slope of the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Church is recognizable by its seven gilded onion domes, each topped by a tall Russian Orthodox cross. Above the entrance, a circular blue mosaic shows Mary Magdalene, who was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. Although the Church’s decorated façade looks very much like marble, it is actually of sculpted white sandstone.
The Church was built by Tsar Alexander III of Russia as a memorial to his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, and was sanctified in 1888. Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna arrived in Palestine for the event. During the ceremony, 24 year-old Elizabeth Fyodorovna was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Church that she exclaimed prophetically, “Oh, if I could be buried here when I die!”
This trip to the Holy Land inspired Elizabeth to convert to Orthodoxy and initiated her eternal relationship with the Church. In 1921, after being killed during the Revolution of 1917, the remains of Elizabeth Fedorovna and Varvara Yakovleva, a nun who followed Fedorovna into exile, were transported to Jerusalem and placed in sarcophagi under the lower arches of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Some 50 years later, in 1981, they were canonized as a Martyred Saints and their relics were moved into the main section of the Church, where they rest today in marble tombs.