The Patriarchal Co-Cathedral of the Diocese of Jerusalem

Photos by OC-Travel
I have always said one of Jerusalem's best kept secrets inside the walls of the city is the Co-Cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, located at the Latin Patriarchate in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.  This chapel, ordinarily closed to the public, is in some ways the private chapel of the Patriarch of Jerusalem.  One of my favorite things to do is to pray here in this hidden place of peace and quiet.  If you are passing by you can ask the porter to open the door and let you in to make a brief visit.  The visitor feels breathless under the sublime weight of beauty.   

The rose window about the main entrance and a chandelier
The French Neo-Gothic co-cathedral was built in 1872.  It contains the cathedra, or throne of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, making it the mother church of the Diocese of Jerusalem.  The church is admired for many reasons including its charming sky blue ceiling, a glimpse of the heavens, with angels and various saints including St. Joseph, St. Gregory the Great, the Apostles and others.  In this beautiful space patriarchal liturgies are on full display with their colorful sonorities, including ordinations and magnificent processions, preceded by the Patriarchal Cross.  Meanwhile, the actual cathedral of the Diocese of Jerusalem remains the nearby Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest shrine in the world, where Our Blessed Lord died, was buried and rose from the dead.  While the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre remains the actual cathedral of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, due to the status quo, it is shared with both the Greek Patriarch and the Armenian Patriarch.  Therefore the Latin Patriarch is only permitted to celebrate for certain festivals and at certain times allotted to him, such as the Saturdays of Lent, Corpus Christi and certain times during Holy Week.  Therefore, so that all the Latin Rite festivals of the year may be solemnized, the Latin Patriarch possesses a co-cathedral.

Transept window depicting the Adoration of the Magi
The location of the co-cathedral is along the Western City wall half way between the Jaffa Gate and New Gate in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.  It is built as part of the large and looming complex of the Latin Patriarchate, one of the most envied pieces of real estate in Jerusalem.  From what I can see, it is also actually the highest point in the city.  The night time view from the rooftop veranda is tremendous, encompassing a spectacular vista the includes the King David Hotel and the super trendy Mamilla neighborhood.   

Detail of the high altar
The gilt main altar is a gift of Francis Joseph I, late Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary, spectacular under the blue tone of some of the windows shining down in the afternoon sun, bringing to mind some of the rarest windows of Chartres Cathedral.  The three-aisled chapel has a Greek cross floor plan with a length of 28 meters and a width of 24 meters which allows music to take off like a bird in flight, soaring in the sky. The church has five altars, three in the nave, two in the side aisles and two others at the ends of the transept.  The interior has dozens of polished marble plaques carved with Latin epitaphs, commemorating the tombs of various heroes of the Holy Land, including deceased Latin Patriarchs and Grand Masters of the most noble Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  The two plaques at the entrance commemorate the names of the chief benefactors, of which each year some Masses, founded in perpetuity, are celebrated for the repose of their souls.   

An antique burse with hand-colored designs
Four beautiful stained glass windows provide for a generous amount of natural lighting, marking the ends of the Greek cross floor plan.  The rose window above the main entrance showcases the four Evangelists.  Three of them have the same shape: the window in the sanctuary represents the risen Christ victorious over death, revealing the empty tomb.  The window on the left depicts the Crucifixion while the window on the right depicts the Adoration of the Magi, offering a familiar richness of the wide-open splendor of distinctly Catholic art.   

One of side altars. It has a Jerusalem cross and was donated by the French. 
In the 1980s the chapel went through an intensive restoration and preservation thanks in part to the generosity and charity of Sir Hernando Courtright, KGCHS (1904-1986).  Courtright was a Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem who had great devotion to the plight of the Christians in the Holy Land.  He was a successful American businessman who was best known as a hotelier and generous philanthropist, the owner of one of the most famous hotels in the world, the Beverly Hills Hotel.  

Notification in the sacristy of the name of the local ordinary (to be included in the prayers of the Mass)
Various interior highlights include antique crystal chandeliers - a rare sight in churches today even in Rome - as well as a traditional hand-carved pulpit with wooden canopy.  In the sanctuary is a beautiful oil on canvas painting in a golden baroque frame depicting Our Lady with the Child Jesus, accompanied by St. Jerome and a guardian angel with a boy offering a fish to the Baby Jesus, a gift of Napoleon II of France.  

In 1893 the Eucharistic Congress was held here in Jerusalem, Reims and Lourdes.  Pontifical Mass was celebrated in the co-cathedral, a magnificent sight with an allocution to the clergy and people and Papal Benediction that will long be remembered for generations to come.  The papal legate was His Eminence Benoit-Marie Cardinal Langenieux, Archbishop of Reims.  Pilgrims were present from every corner of the Christian world, including Europe and Africa.  Since this historic celebration four reigning popes have visited the chapel.    

The development of the work of evangelizing Palestine, which included the construction of this beautiful place of worship is thanks to Monsignor Giuseppe Valerga (1813-1872).  He was the one man who was hand-selected by Blessed Pope Pius IX at age thirty-four to fill the empty shoes of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  The new Patriarch had a famous scar from his time in Iraq, a dagger wound in his right shoulder from the rising of the Islamists of Mosul against the Christians.  On the 10th of October 1847 the Pope in person bestowed episcopal consecration and the sacred pallium in the Vatican's Pauline Chapel, making Valerga the new Latin Patriarch, the first resident bishop in Jerusalem since the Crusades.  He envisioned along with the Pope the importance of providing a new church and residence for the Latin Patriarchate.  With the authorization of the Turkish government during the decline of the Ottoman Empire, he purchased the large tract of land in Jerusalem, then covered in ruins and rubbish.  

Tomb of the first Latin Patriarch, Bishop Valerga, builder of the cathedral
Funds came from all over Europe.  Valerga worked with the Vatican's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith and his right-hand man for construction was his friend Abbe Moretain.  Construction of the building and church was begun in 1860 and was partly occupied in 1864.  Both the complex with audience hall, offices and living quarters and church were completed in 1871.  The new co-cathedral was consecrated by Valerga himself with the assistance of Monsignor Vincenzo Bracco, Auxiliary of Jerusalem and Athanasius, the Melchite Archbishop of Tyre. The date was February 11, 1872, the 25th anniversary of his Patriarchal appointment and consecration.  The church was dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus and enriched by the Pope with a daily plenary indulgence.  The bishop's untimely death ten months later in December was after four days illness, caused by contaminated water he drank while visiting the Bedouins.       

Altar of St. Joseph with the tombs of two bishops who consecrated the church
Although the co-Cathedral is often overlooked by pilgrim groups today, overshadowed by the more famous Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and even by the beautiful Franciscan church of San Salvatore, the Baroque masterpiece of Jerusalem, I hope and pray readers may someday make a pilgrimage with me and pray here inside this splendid temple of the living God, a light to the nations in the holy city of Jerusalem.  It is also a good place for pilgrimage groups to visit to offer adequate time for confessions -- and private Masses may be celebrated by appointment.     

A private Low Mass offered at the altar of the Agony in the Garden
Tomb of Bishop Vincenzo Bracco, the second Latin Patriarch.

Throne room in the Patriarch's Palace attached to the church.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.