Glowing lamps hang from the ceiling, glittering icons adorn every wall and richly patterned carpets are strewn across the floors, giving this 12th-century cathedral an aura of mystery lacking in many other Christian sites of Jerusalem. It's open only for services, the most impressive of which is held on Sunday when the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem presides. At other times, you can enter the courtyard to see the exterior, which is decorated with khatchkars (carved Armenian stone crosses).
It was actually the Georgians who, in the 11th century, first constructed a church here in honour of St James, believing the site to be the place where he was beheaded and became the first martyred disciple. In the 12th century, the Armenians, in favour with the ruling Crusaders, took possession of the church and undertook its restoration. The blue-and-white tiles in the interior date from the 18th century.
Modest dress is required to attend services; women should cover their heads.