A powerful woman was buried on these stairs

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Yesterday I posted an image of the façade that marks the entrance to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary (See here). Beyond the threshold is a set of stairs that lead the explorer to the crypt below. Along the way down, niches open up to the right and left. These function today as chapels.

The niche on the right (or east side), is decorated in scarlet. It is dedicated to Mary's parents, Yoachim and Hanna (Anna).

However, it originally served as a tomb for the 12th-century Crusader Queen Melisanda (Melissende). Melisanda was a powerful female in a man's world. She created a political machine, directed armies, battled her own husband, was a patron of art and architecture, loved the church, and gave birth to Jerusalem's future king, Baldwin III. In 1161 she was buried in this niche along the stairway to the tomb of the Virgin.

Melisanda is one of the most fascinating personalities of period. For a glimpse, see the article here. If you really want to get serious, see her letters here. 


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. Onboard lectures will focus on Paul's fourth missionary journey. See the link here for details.