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Home of Lazarus draws faithful to view site of miracle

By Catholic Online
March 8th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Bethany, the home of Lazarus, was where Jesus Christ raised him from the dead as it is written in John 11:38-44. Lazarus lived with his sisters Mary and Martha, and Jesus often stayed at their home. As it reads in Mark 14:3, Jesus was anointed at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany. Jesus then returned to Bethany after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus then ascended into heaven near Bethany, which is commemorated at the Chapel of the Ascension.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A village has been here since at least Roman times, and nearby was an Iron Age settlement that is believed to be the biblical Ananiah in the territory of Benjamin that is called Bethany in the New Testament.

There is no record of a church in Bethany in the 4th century, although both Eusebius the historian and the Bordeaux pilgrim (333) mention the tomb of Lazarus in a vault or crypt. Around 490 AD, St. Jerome recorded visiting the Tomb of Lazarus as the guest room of Mary and Martha, which is the Lazarium mentioned by the pilgrim Egeria in her account of the liturgy on Saturday in the seventh week of Lent.

The convent of Sts. Mary and Martha became one of the richest convents in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Melisande\'s sister Joveta was elected abbess at the age of 24. After the fall of the Crusader kingdom in 1187, the nuns went into exile. The new west church was probably destroyed at this time, with only the tomb and barrel vaulting surviving; the 6th-century church and tower were heavily damaged but remained standing.

When one goes to visit the forecourt of the Franciscan Church of St. Lazarus stands over the west end of the older churches, from which parts of the original mosaic floor are preserved. The west wall of the forecourt contains the west facade of the 6th-century basilica, with three doorways.

The cruciform-plan church stands over the east end of the older churches. Trapdoors in the floor just inside reveal parts of the apse of the 4th-century church, or the Lazarium, which was shorter than the 6th-century church. The modern church bears a mosaic on its facade depicting Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The interior is decorated with polished stone and mosaics.

Just up the hill on the left is the 16th-century Mosque of al-Uzair. The courtyard is in the Byzantine church atrium and the mosque is built in the vault that formerly supported the west end of the 12th-century church.

The original blocked entrance can be seen in the east wall of the antechamber; this alignment suggests the tomb predates the Byzantine churches and may well be from the time of Lazarus.

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