The Crystal Reliquary

On Christian Quarter road, not far from where the market is ( the one that starts at Jaffa gate ) you will find a small wooden door, always open, which leads into a small courtyard. Once inside, directly in front of you, you will see a small Greek Orthodox church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.

The church is not very interesting to look at since it is fairly modern, but if you walk across the courtyard around the church you will see some narrow steps leading down to a lateral underground entrance. This entrance is always shut but if you look carefully, you will be able to see what is hidden inside though a small opening. It is the Narthex (a portico which was built in front of the first Christian Basilicas) of the Byzantine church over which the new Saint John's was built.

The church has a very peculiar clover shape, and was probably built around the years 450 /460, when the Byzantine Empress Eudocia lived in Jerusalem. In 1893, while restoring an area next to the altar of the antique church, some workers found a crystal reliquary in the shape of a mitre.

The reliquary was wedged into a gilded bronze frame decorated with precious stones and filigree. Inside the crystal was a small piece of wooden board, and wedged in both sides of the board were holy relics. Some were relics of the apostles Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Peter but there were also three and a half ounces of wood from the Holy Cross.

The Mitre was probably hidden hurriedly in a moment of sudden danger during or after the Crusades and remained buried for at least 600 years. The reliquary can be seen in the small Greek-Orthodox museum (that deserves mention in this web site) situated not far from the church in the Christian Quarter.