Abu Gosh: Shrine of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant

Abu Gosh is a Muslim Arab village with small Christian pockets, located just a few miles from Jerusalem, which has been inhabited for nearly 6,000 years. If historically, Christianity precedes Islam, Christian presence has not been continuous in this region. 

The village was called Kiryat-Yaarim

In the Bible, this village is called Kiryat-Yaarim. The Ark of the Covenant remained at this location of Kiryat-Yaarim for about 50 years (1 Sam 6; 2 Sam 6). The Ark was here during the reign of the Prophet Samuel, King Saul and King David. In 1050 BC, after the defeat suffered by Israel at Apheq, the Ark of the Covenant was seized by the Philistines, but they suffered many hardships because of the Ark and had it taken back to Kiryat-Yaarim. In 1000 BC, during the first year of his reign King David came to Kiryat-Yaarim to fetch the Ark and carry it with him to Jerusalem, the city he had recently made the capital of his kingdom. 

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant

The Shrine of Our Lady stands at the highest point of the village, in a grandiose landscape. The nuns of St Joseph of the Apparition had a basilica built in honor of Mary, Ark of the Covenant. This Catholic church was built in 1924 on the ruins of the ancient Byzantine church dating from between the 4th and the 5th centuries. A large statue of the Virgin Mary was placed in the courtyard of the church. The statue of the Virgin Mary is praised as "Ark of the New Covenant," the one who kept the precious pearl--the Man-God--during his earthly life.

Mary's title of "Ark of the Covenant"

The Ark of the Covenant was a sacred container or chest, covered all over with the purest gold; its upper surface or lid, called the mercy seat, was surrounded with a rim of gold. At the mercy seat's two extremities were two cherubim with their faces turned toward one another (Leviticus 16:2; Num. 7:89). Their outspread wings over the top of the Ark formed the throne of God, while the Ark itself was his footstool (Ex. 25:10-22; 37:1-9).

The Ark of the Covenant contained two tablets of the Law as well as Aaron's rod that budded and a golden pot of manna. Describing the Virgin Mary while she was expecting Jesus as the New Ark of the Covenant is to say that the Blessed Virgin was the one who bore the New Torah and the New Manna, Bread from Heaven ...

When telling the story of the Visitation (Mary pregnant with Jesus visits her kinswoman Elizabeth) Saint Luke very strongly suggests that the reader who knows the Old Testament compare Mary to the Ark of the Covenant: both make the same kind of journey, both are a source of blessings, both cause reverential fear and both are liturgical exclamations...

Although the Ark of the Covenant disappeared after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem at the time of the deportation to Babylon, it is considered incorruptible. Meanwhile, the tradition of the Church and the dogma of the Assumption say that the Virgin Mary rose into heaven without knowing the corruption of the tomb. This is a great sign of hope for all. 

More information about Abu Gosh

The village was built during the Ottoman period by the Abu Gosh family, whose descendants make up the majority of the local population (about 5,000 people).

At the time of the Crusades (around the year 1000), it was thought that Abu Gosh was the scene of the apparition of the Risen Christ to the pilgrims of Emmaus (Luke 24) and it was also at this time that the Benedictine Monastery was built. This is one of the most beautiful buildings of the Crusaders. A spring flows through the crypt and the church walls are decorated with impressive frescoes. Unfortunately, during the Muslim invasion, the faces represented in the paintings were wiped out.

Today, twice a year during the festivals of Shavuot and Sukkot, the two churches organize a festival of singing, attended by choirs from around the world.


F. Breynaert