An unofficial royal visit..

The funeral of the former President of Israel Shimon Peres was held on 30 September 2016 in Jerusalem.

Many dignitaries from all over the world made a final tribute to  this Great Man. Charles, the Prince of Wales, was among them.

At the end of the ceremony, which took place on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Prince Charles went to visit the Russian Orthodox nuns of the St. Mary Magdalene convent on Mount of Olives, where they live in contemplation.

He brought with him a bouquet of flowers, picked from his Scottish residence’s garden, to lay on the grave of his grandmother, Alice of Greece, born Battenberg, mother of Prince Philip.

                                                         A visit of utmost importance…. 

But who was this Princess Alice of Greece?

Princess Alice de Battenberg

Princess Alice de Battenberg

She was a remarkable woman.

During the Second World War, she had hidden a Jewish family in her own home. In 1994 she posthumously received, for her bravery, the title of  :

                                                          “Righteous Among the Nations” 

For this occasion a ceremony was held at the Yad Vashem Holocauste Museum in Jerusalem, where the Prince Consort Philip was the guest of honor and he would
visit his mother’s grave on the Mount of Olives for the first time.

There is also a second Royal tomb to be found in crypt of the convent; that of the great-aunt of Prince Charles, the Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Princess Alice of Battenberg was born on February 25th, 1885 at Windsor Castle.

Queen Victoria, Alice’s grandmother, felt very close to the little girl and soon realises that her granddaughter suffered from congenital deafness. She was taught lips reading and was able to speack correctly. even mastering several languages.

At the age of seventeen, Princess Alice met Prince Andrew of Greece for the first time, and fell in love. The respective families marked reluctance due to Alice’s young age however the couple will be united and their marriage announced. They got married and separated a few years later but have five children together.

The princess gives birth to four girls and a boy.

In 1911, further to the murder of Alice’s stepfather and the tension due to the war in the Balkan, the Greek royal family fled into exile and settled in Lucerne in Switzerland.

Eventually the Princess would return to Athens in 1938 to remain there until the end of the World War II, helping the Red Cross and dedicating her life to the poor and the sick in field hospitals. She converted to the Orthodox religion and became increasingly mystical to the verge of insanity.

In 1949, she founded an order of orthodox nuns, which was inspired by the one created by her aunt,  the Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, born princess of Hesse.

Prince Phillip and his mother

Prince Phillip and his mother

The princess attended the coronation of her daughter in law Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, wearing the outfit of her religious order.

In December 1967, following the “Colonels coup d’etat” in Greece, she had to leave her country again. She came to live in Buckingham Palace, near her family.

She died in London on December 5th,1969. and was buried in the chapel of Windsor Castle.

Princess Alice’s last dying wish was to be buried in Jerusalem.

In 1988, her remains were finally transferred to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, where she rests next to her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia.

 

Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene

Monastery of St. Mary Magdalene

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An astounding story

 

The dismiss Grec Orthodoxe Patriarche - Irineos I

The dismiss Grec Orthodoxe Patriarche – Irineos I

Due to transactions of church property, made secretly with Israeli settlers, the former Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church Irineos I, is living behind locked doors in the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem since 2005.

His successor, Theophilos III, does not authorize his lawyer,  doctor or any visitor to enter the house ” prison ” of the former Patriarch.

He spends his days completely isolated, praying, reading and writing, always wearing the black traditional costume of the Greek Orthodox clergy. Irineos still considers himself the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church.

A Muslim Palestinian from the old city regularly brings him food in a basket, which he pulls up with a rope through one of the windows, overlooking an alley in the old town.

The allegations against the former Patriarch are based on the fact that he signed sales agreements with Jews wanting to increase their presence in the majority of the old Arab city of East Jerusalem.

Three important buildings in the Jaffa Gate were the subject of leases of 198 years and were sold to a group of anonumous investors…  the shops, the Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel are located in the Jaffa Gate at the intersection of Christian, Muslim and Armenian neighbourhoods.

According to the ‘Camp David’ agreement” of 2000, the Christian and Muslim areas, whose population is Arab, would remain under Palestinian control and become the new Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, whereas the Jewish sector would be Israeli.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate holds 20 percent of the old town.

In 1990 another scandal was revealed. The Hospice of Saint John, near the Holy Sepulchre, was acquired through a foreign company, but funds came from the Housing Ministry, which was headed by Likud Minister David Levy at the time…

Obviously, a lot of money was involved with these properties agreements, but not enough related documents could be found. The financial Manager, Mr. Papadimas, vanished with           $ 700,000, and claims from his exile that a proxy of sale had been signed by Patriarch Irineos I, who replied to this statement that the document was fake!

Some think that the Patriarch Irineos wanted to remain in good favor with the Israeli authorities. However, one cannot ignore the fact that that many criminal investigations are underway in Greece concerning the scandals, accusing the Greek Church to be involved in the antics traffic, and of rigged trials and sexual offenses.

This movement of acquisition of property in the old town and the new city of Jerusalem is an indisputable fact, which worries the local population, because the number of settlers implanted in Jerusalem is continuously growing.

Hotel Petra at Jaffa gate- Jérusalem

Hotel Petra at Jaffa gate – Jerusalem

Louis IX – King of France and the crusades

Saint Louis departing d'Aigues Mortes

Saint Louis departing d’Aigues Mortes

Every year at the end of August, the city of Aigues-Mortes in southern France celebrates the departure of Saint Louis for the Crusades.

This good-hearted and generous king never hesitated to invite the poors to his table. He vowed to cross himself after a long illness that many thought fatal.

While a relative peace and economic prosperity reigned in the Middle East, and diplomatic and trade relations were constantly increasing, an unwelcome alliance was made with the Prince of Damascus against the Sultan of Egypt. In 1244 the sultan took Jerusalem and destroyed the Christian army.

Pope Innocent IV then called for a new crusade and Saint Louis hasted to organise it.

The seventh crusade was to be the first one of the two crusades undertaken under the direction of Saint Louis – King of France.

In this southern city of France, construction work would be carried out, such as a port, a church called the ”Sablon”, and a tower to protect the port called ”Constance”, of which remains exist in the old town of Aigues-Mortes to this day.

This expedition regrouped 36,000 men committed to a new conquest of the holy places and the Holy Sepulchre, but also in order to found a colony in Africa. Therefore it was necessary to bring not only arms, ammunition and food, but tools as well.

A crusade in which no foreign sovereign was involved … strictly French !!

After receiving the papal blessing in Lyon, Saint Louis reached Aigues-Mortes the 25th of August 1248.

The cry of ” God willing”  accompanied the departure of these Fancs to the Holy Land.

Saint Louis remained in the Holy Land for four years in order to build the Kingdom of Jerusalem and to allow it to be capable of defending itself against a new threat: the Mameluks. The crusade ended in 1254 by the sudden return of the king to France after the death of Blanche of Castile, his mother who ensured the regency during his absence. Although this crusade did not reach the desired results, it was important for the survival of the Kingdom in the Holy Land.

Following the conquest by the Mamluks of the port City of Jaffa, Caesarea and Arsuf, Saint Louis decided to return for a new crusade.

While reaching the port of Tunis a plague broke out, and a large part of his troops became ill, as well as the king himself, who died in August 25th, 1270.

 

 

Saint Louis

Saint Louis

Napoleon and AKKO

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte tried to conquer other territories in the Middle East during the period of his Egyptian campaign.

After El-Arish, Jaffa and Mount Tabor he tried to conquer the city of Akko.

He set up his headquarter with 13000 soldiers on the hill outside the walls which is called upto this day the ” Napoleon Hill ”.

The Pasha El-Jezzar called the “Butcher”, a not so friendly man, knew of the intention of this general Napoleon, therefore with the help of of Antoine Picard of Phelippeaux, a French royalist engineer, built a second wall to protect his city.

This man knew Bonaparte from the Royal Military School of Paris where they studied together and dislike him.

Also the English Fleet under the command of Admiral Smith , the eternal enemy of General Bonaparte, came to the rescue of the Pasha, who felt strong enough to face this terrible threat.

Bonaparte was counting on the big guns which were to arrive by sea to succeed in this battle, but the English Fleet intercepted the French one and captured it.

Many French soldiers lost their lives against the heavy attacks of the Ottomans because the simple field guns that Bonaparte had could only make minor damage to the walls.

Despite this, the Napoleonic troops led by General Kleber, repeatedly pierced the walls, to take control of part of the city. However, each time they were pushed back by the defenders of the city.

An army of 35,000 men from Damascus came to the Pasha rescue and setback the French troops by surpise.

After two months of siege, Bonaparte renounced taking the city. The plague raged in his troops, some sick soldiers could no longer follow and were executed on the spot. Bonaparte went back to Egypt, where his departure had only weakened his troops left behind.

It is said that the Pasha El-Jezzar wanted to eliminate Christians living in the city as revenge, but  Admiral Smith threatened him to bomb Akko if this should happen and prevented the massacre …

 

The coronation of napoleon

The coronation of napoleon

The nine Gates of the old city of Jerusalem

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Beautiful gate of the 'Ieshiva Bet El' in the Jewish quarter

Beautiful gate of the ‘Ieshiva Bet El’ in the Jewish quarter

 

Nine gates are in the wall of the Old city of Jerusalem built in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent, they protect the cradle of the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam :

-The Golden Gate – the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent while renovating the walls of the old city definitely closed that gate in order to refrain the Jewish Messiah to pass.
– The Dung gate – Poor people used to live in the lower part of the old city  where  they  probably threw garbage. Next to it and later on in the 1980’s excavation an old medieval gate was opened to allow an easier passage
– The Tanners gate reopened recently.
– The Sion Gate or David Gate where is the Tomb of King David
– The Jaffa Gate in the direction of the Biblical city of Joppée, called Jaffa today.
– The New gate built at the end of the nineteen century to allow a quick passage to the    Christian quarter .
– The Damascus Gate the most beautiful gate in the north in direction of Naplouse and Damas.
– The Flowers Gate also called the Herod’s Gate opened in 1875 after the construction started outside the walls.
– The Lions Gate according to a legend the sultan Soliman the Magnificent had a terrible nightmare,  lions threatening to devour him as he did not seriously provide the protection of his population living inside the old city. He immediately hastened the construction of the city walls.

The ‘Three Marys’ and the ‘Saint Marys of the Sea’

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Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe

There is a fascinating legend about the city called ”Saintes Maries de la Mer” in Provence, the southern part of France.

Three Saints, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe, whose relics are the object of devotion for pilgrims in the ” Saintes Maries de la Mer”, were the first witnesses according to the Gospels  of the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion in a place called Golgotha in the Old City of Jerusalem.

They followed their Uncle Joseph of Arimathea by boat to Alexandria, Egypt. A French legend tells us about their drift that led them on this Mediterranean coast to a Fortress city called at the time ” Oppidum-Ra” and which became  ”Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer” in 1838.

A beautiful church fortress, built in the Middle Ages at the heart of the city, reminds us of the dangers that were rampant in this region due to the impromptu arrival of pirates. It was a strategic retreat that allowed the population to shelter far from danger. This also explains the walls with slits and a fresh water well that is located inside it.

When talking about the Camargue and the Saintes, there is always the image of the Gypsies that comes to our mind with their annual religious pilgrimage the last sunday in May, in honor of their landlady the Holy Sarah.

Black Sarah the patron Saint of the gypsies
Who was she ?

An Egyptian child servant with dark skin, who was entirely devoted to the three Maries

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A generous woman from the village who welcomed the three women warmly upon their arrival and offered them hospitality.

Several Mediterranean towns such as Arles, Les Baux de Provence, Marseille claim the privilege of hosting the Barque of the Holies Marys.

The three Marys were buried together at the heart of the city where the medieval church was built.

The tomb of Mary Magdalene can be seen in the Massif of the ”Sainte Baume” ….

Martha, the sister of Lazarus converted to a terrible monster (the Tarasque) that used to rise out of the waters of the Rhone to devour people and livestock at Tarascon …

 

 

 

City's Emblem of Saint Mary de la Mer

City’s Emblem of Saint Mary de la Mer

The Italian architecte Antonio Barluzzi and his artwork in the Holyland

The architecte Antonio Barluzzi

The architecte Antonio Barluzzi

The architect Antonio Barluzzi (1884-1960) was born in Rome. He devoted his life to the Holy Land and designed, on behalf of the Custody of the Holy Land, new Sanctuaries. the first one was at the foot of the Mount of olives called ‘Gethsemane’  meaning the Olive Oil Press. After that he created the  ‘the Church of the Transfiguration’ on Mount Tabor, which was to be followed by many others works.

Barluzzi brought new architecture to the Holy Land. At that time, designers were following the styles of past eras by rebuilding of gothic cross-shaped churches in a  classic Byzantine style

Antonio Barluzzi was a strong believer. He conceived these religious sanctuaries to remind “the Mystery of Jesus’ life”, so that every pious visitor would be able to feel the serenity of this sacred place.

After receiving the task of designing the new “Church of All Nations” in the Gethsemane project, which also included the design of the Sanctuary of Mount Tabor, Barluzzi adapted the project according to the discoveries that took place at the same time on the ruins of the Byzantine church of the fourth century.

The basilica buit in 1924 was designed as a unique space. It contains only two rows of six columns, into which the light is filtered throughmidnight blue glazing, where thousands of stars are reminding Jesus’ Night of agony.

The mosaics that decorate the apses are the illustrations of events that occurred on the next morning of the agony, the kiss of Judas and his arrest.

Everything has been designed to make this place for meditation and prayer and to lead to the most important element : the Stone, remembering the location where Jesus spent the night crying and praying,  located near the ‘altar.

Antonio Barluzzi was getting quite frustrated at not being known enough and left his mark by been represented on the vault of the dome to the right of the apse.

Also in ‘the Church of the Visitation’  at ‘Ein Karem one can see the architecte been painted in one of the drawings inside the church.

In 1960 began the construction of an even more remarkable church : the ‘Annunciation to Mary’ in Nazareth.

Barluzzi died that year and did  not have the opportunity to see this church built according to his plans.

The Basilica of the agony - Gethsemane

The Basilica of the agony – Gethsemane

 

The church of the Mount of Beatitudes

The church of the Mount of Beatitudes

The Church of the Transfiguration - Mont Tabor

The Church of the Transfiguration – Mont Tabor

View of Mont Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration

View of Mont Tabor and the Church of the Transfiguration