The church of Saint Mark is home to one of Jerusalem’s smallest and oldest Christian communities – The Syriac Orthodox church. It is located deep inside the Armenian Quarter, and claims to be over the home of Saint Mark, composer of one of the Gospels. The church is built of local stone and is lower than the street level. The interior is decorated with Byzantine style Christian Icons and several Syriac inscriptions. One of them, dated to the 6th century, presents the oldest claim that the church is built over Mark’s home. A crypt beneath the church is believed to be the house of Mark’s mother. The book of Acts records Peter staying at her home after his miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:12-17).
A Plethora of Traditions at Saint Mark’s Church
In addition to the claim that the church is built over the home of Saint Mark and his mother Mary, the local community maintains that is also the site of the last supper (Mark 14:12-25), the site where Matthias was elected as an apostle instead of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-26), the site where Jesus showed doubting Thomas his wounds (John 20:24-28), the site of the Pentacost (Acts 2:1-4), and the home of the early church of Jerusalem. Other churches mark these events to happen at other locations, on Mount Zion.
The Syriac Orthodox Church
The Syriac Christians see themselves as direct descents of the first natives of the Holy Land to adopt Christianity. Their language, Syriac, is a dialect of Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus. They have communities in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Their community in Jerusalem numbers only 600.
Visiting the Syriac Orthodox Saint Mark Church
The church is in the Armenian Quarter yet requires good navigations skills. It is almost hidden at the end alley in the north Eastern edge of the Armenian Quarter. It is open every day, and has representative explaining the site.
For a visit of the site it is recommended to combine it in a guided day tour of Jerusalem.