It is easy to access St. James’ Cathedral, located inside the Armenian Monastery, accessed by walking down the paved road ahead of Nea Church to the west.
St. James Cathedral is one of the main features of the Armenian Quarter and Monastery. The Armenian Quarter is the northwest part of the Old City of Jerusalem. This church is also among the old churches of Jerusalem, with Armenian traditions dating it to the 4th century AD, but the current architecture of the church dates back to the end of the 12th century, or the Franks era. The church’s location is connected to St. John, one of Christ’s disciples and the brother of St. Jacob. It is thought that John was killed by Herod Agrippa in this location.
Plan and Decorative Elements
The original church was larger than the present building, but it seems to have been destroyed during the Persian invasion in 614 AD. The church was rebuilt more than once, including during the 8th century, but the present plan was made in the 12th century, during the Franks era. This church is distinguished by the ornamental blue tiles, similar to Turkish ones, covering its walls. They are similar to the tiles covering the Dome of the Rock, but the ornamental elements are different. The area of this church is about 24 x 17.5 meters and it has the plan of a basilica, with three aisles, the center one of which is the largest. The eastern part of the church, or the nave, contains three altars, whose wooden ornaments date back to 1731 AD. The church also contains some chapels and the remains of a few dead, including St. James.
The Armenian monastery has a rich library containing an important number of manuscripts and Ottoman and Mamluk sultans’ decrees. There is also a museum, schools, and a residential compound attached to the church and the monastery, all of which form the Armenian quarter.