Tomb of the Virgin Mary (also known as Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary), the interior

Getty Images

Tomb of the Virgin Mary

East Jerusalem

Centuries of candle smoke have blackened the walls of this subterranean shrine, one of Christianity's holiest sites. According to tradition, this is the resting place of Mary, mother of Jesus. Though strung with countless lanterns and crowded with icons worth millions of shekels, the space is faintly lit. A central shrine is cloaked in velvet, and pilgrims can duck inside.

A monument was first constructed at this site in the 5th century but was repeatedly destroyed. The facade of the current structure dates to the Crusader period of the 12th century, but the crypt is Byzantine. An ancient cistern lies beneath the floor.

The eggs atop the shrine's pendulous oil lamps aren't an Easter decoration: they form an obstacle course that makes it difficult for rats to clamber down the chain.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby East Jerusalem attractions

1. Garden of Gethsemane

0.01 MILES

After a night of feverish prayer, Jesus is believed to have been arrested in this garden (Mark 14:26, 32–50), now attached to the Church of All Nations…

2. Church of All Nations

0.02 MILES

Built above the remains of two previous churches, this Franciscan basilica crowns the site where Jesus is believed to have prayed through the night before…

3. Tomb of Zechariah


The tent-roofed Tomb of Zechariah, flanked by Ionic columns, is carved out of rock. According to Jewish tradition, this is where the prophet Zechariah is…

5. Church of Dominus Flevit

0.15 MILES

Built in the early 1950s, this tear-drop-shaped church commemorates the spot where, according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus wept after foreseeing the…

6. Lions' Gate

0.15 MILES

This easterly gate of Jerusalem's Old City points towards the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. Although originally called Bab Al Ghor (Jordan Valley Gate),…

7. St Anne’s Church

0.19 MILES

The finest example of Crusader architecture in Jerusalem, St Anne's was completed in 1138 on a site thought to have been the home of Joachim and Anne,…

8. Valley of Jehoshaphat

0.24 MILES

The word jehoshaphat (yehoshafat in Hebrew) means ‘God has judged’, and this narrow furrow of land located between Temple Mount/Al Haram Ash Sharif and…