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Saint James Cathedral

tour to saint james cathedralThe Cathedral of Saint James is a 12th century Armenian church in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Saint James “the Greater” (One of the twelve Apostles) and James “The Just” (The brother of Jesus).

By local tradition relics of both saints are kept in two chapels in the church.


Touring Saint James Cathedral

Unfortunately the church is open for only 30 minutes every day (from 15:00 to 15:30). Behind the church is a site that by Armenian local tradition was the House of the High priest Annas, who questioned Jesus together with Caiaphas.

Saint James Ossuary?

James “the great” is mentioned several times in the New Testament as one of the brothers of Jesus (Mat.  13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; Gal. 1:19) and appears to be a leading figure among the first Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13; Gal. 2:9). Although the New Testament does not state it, by Christian tradition James is the first Bishop of Jerusalem.

The New Testament does not record when and how James ended his life, but it is recorded by another source. The First Century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, records a “brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James”. According to Josephus, in 62 CE James was stoned to death, after accused of heresy by the Sanhedrin (Ant.  20:9).

In 2002 popular archeological periodical, Biblical Archaeological Review, published a Jewish burial bone box (Ossuary) typical to the first century. On one of its sides the name of the deceased chiseled. It read, in Aramaic –  “James, Son of Joseph, brother of Jesus“.

All three names were common in the first century, but of the 6000 recorded ossuaries, only in one more burial box the name of the brother of the deceased mentioned. In most cases, if another family member of the deceased was mentioned, it was his father. And needless to say, all the figures mentioned in the bone box published by BAR were very known in the New Testament – Jesus, his brother James, and their father (foster-father by Christian faith), Joseph.

And why would James mention his brother? Perhaps because already in the 60’s he was the known Galilean sentenced to death, and three days later his tomb was found empty?

If this ossuary is genuine, it is the single most important Christian archaeological discovery ever made. The possibility that the actual bone box of one of the family members of Jesus of Nazareth was uncovered is indeed mind boggling.

But is it indeed so? Sadly, the bone box was not found in proper excavations. It was documented in the antiquities collection of an Israeli engineer and amateur archaeologist, Oded Golan. He claimed to have owned it for years, and never recognize its significance. Worse, later the bon box was broken, when returning from an exhibition in Canada. The state of Israel then confiscated the bon box and accused Mr. Golan of forging the inscription on the Ossuary. The trial took more then a decade, but it ended with the eviction of Mr. Golan. The state of Israel gave him back his ossuary, which is on display in his living room to this day.


Book a Private Tour to Saint James Cathedral

Saint James Cathedral is in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem.

Contact us for a proposal of a full day tour of Jerusalem, that will also include a visit to Saint James Catherdral.


Points of Interest in the Area

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