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Cradle of Jesus

The Cradle of Jesus (مهد عيسى), according to the tradition, refers to a small recessed marble alcove inside a small chamber (known as the Chamber of Virgin Mary or Oratory of Mary) situated in the south-eastern corner of the Temple Mount. It is believed to be the location where Jesus was laid down by Miriam before or after being presented in the Temple at the age of 40 days. The cradle of Jesus is located in the el-Marwani Musallah, also known as the Solomon’s Stables. Another tradition mentions that below this area is a crypt where the wooden cradle of the highly revered Jesus is reserved.

Overview

This chamber where the "cradle" is located is a small rectangular room (4.40 x 7.40 meters) which is used as a place of Salah (Muslim worship) and it is named "Dome of the Jesus' Cradel" (قبة مهد عيسى). An additional alcove in the eastern wall has been opened and is used as a window.

The room's vaults originate from a relatively later period and are made of small stones. Above the "cradle" is a dome supported by four marble pillars, most probably installed during the Fatimid era.

Brief History

circa 10 CE

The canopied shrine, where the domed stone alcove is located, is in fact a Roman or Byzantine niche, carved from a single stone block and set on its back below a dome (Myres 2000).

The earliest mention of the shrine as an Abrahamic religious interest dates to the tenth century CE, and the tradition continues through the Crusader period. The name "Jesus' Cradle" indicates that this location was considered holy by the Christians and it is possible that here stood a church.

Jesus' cradle was mentioned by many Muslim authors prior to the Crusader period. Abad Rabia stated in the year 913 CE, "In the Temple mount are situated the alcoves named after Miriam, daughter of Amram, the mother of Jesus, where the angels were accustomed to hide her winter fruit in summer, and summer fruit during the winter."

Mujir al-Din, a 15th century CE Muslim Qadi of Jerusalem, adds some important facts about Jesus' Cradle, "Beneath this place which is known as the "Alcove of Knowledge", there lies an underground mosque by the name of Jesus' cradle. It is told that this location is the Alcove of Miriam and her place of worship. To this place arrive many pilgrims to pray and to confirm that their wishes are fulfilled. The prayer here reads the chapter of Miriam (Sura 19 of Quran), and then added to this, while kneeling, is said The Saad Omar Sura, and the prayer said by Jesus when they took him to The Mount of Olives."

Architecture

circa 10 CE

Ottoman Dome
Above the "cradle" is a wooden dome supported by four marble pillars made by the Muslims most probably during the era of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificient. The dome is richly adorned with floral patterns and blue paint.

circa 10 CE

The "Cradle" Alcove
The marble alcove originating from the early Byzantine period when it was possibly a setting for a statue of some sort. The recess in the floor underneath the dome is the purported Cradle of Jesus, this alcove is arched in shape and refined at it's borders in the shape of a conch shell, (1 x 1.60 meters). Above the "cradle" is a dome supported by four marble pillars.

Oratory of the Virgin Mary

A flight of stairs in the south-eastern corner of the el-Marwani Mosque leads to the this chamber (grill in upper left) commonly known as the Maqam e Maryam, Oratory of the Virgin Mary. This is a small room containing a domed cavity in the floor, according to the tradition this is the site of cradle of Jesus, where Mary placed him at the age of 40 days. This episode is mentioned in the Gospel according to Luke (Luke 2:23–24). The small chamber has two windows on the eastern side (inspect) and one on the southern side, made of stained glass, overlooking the Kidron Vallery.

Access to this small chamber was by a winding staircase containing 32 stairs, from the Temple Mount esplanade. Today a gratted door in the western wall, allows entry from the Solomon's stables. According to the decorations on this door it is related to the Byzantine period.

According to Johann from Wiersberg's statement, "close to The Templar's building, to the east of the city walls was Simon the Zaddik's (Simon the wise) place of dwelling. It is told that here he customarily hosted Miriam and Jesus in great honour, and gave them to eat. This is what he did the night after Jesus was 40 days old, and then presented him to the Temple.

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