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Visiting Jerusalem’s San Simon Monastery

San Simon monastery is located on a hilltop about 5 km SW of the old city of Jerusalem. Named after “Simeon the Righteous”, by local tradition it is built over his burial place. The current monastery was built in the 19th century over ruins of a Georgian monastery from the middle ages.

Saint Simon in the New Testament

San Simon Rembrandt

Despite the importance of event, Only a few artists painted the subject of Simon blessing baby Jesus in the Temple. This version, by Rembrandt, is from 1630.

The Gospel of Luke records that when Jesus is a baby, he is brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. At the Temple he is approached by a “righteous and devout” person named Simeon.  Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and blesses him.

He then states to his parents: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).

This is an important testimony to Jesus’ messianic role, already as infant, yet, it is not often presented in Christian theology or art. There is also no further information about the blessing Simeon.

 

Visiting San Simon Monastery

Today the Monastery is in the heart of Western Jerusalem. It is maintained by a single monk named Theodoritos. It is open only by appointment, and only for pilgrimage purposes.

In the Patriarch’s summer home in the monastery bullet holes of 1948 war can still be seen. The Israeli neighborhoods that developed around the monastery after 1948 are named “Katamon”, a place-name based on the Greek term “Kata Monhs” – “By the monastery”.

For a full appreciation of the site it is recommended to combine it in a guided day tour of Jerusalem.


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