Tomb of the Virgin

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Tomb of the Virgin

The Gothic facade of the underground Church of the Assumption, which contains this shrine, clearly dates it to the Crusader era (12th century). Tradition has it that this is where the Virgin Mary was interred and then "assumed" into heaven, hence the more common name, the Tomb of the Virgin. In an otherwise gloomy church—hung with age-darkened icons and brass lamps—the marble sarcophagus, apparently medieval, remains illuminated. The 1852 Status Quo Agreement in force in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity pertains here, too: the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and even the Muslims control different parts of the property. The Roman Catholic Franciscans were expelled in 1757, a loss of privilege that rankles to this day.

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