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IsraelSights: Holy Monastery of Saint George the Hozevite

The Holy Monastery of Hozeva is one of the earliest of the Holy Monasteries of Palestine, contemporary of the great Monastic Centres of Saint Savva and of the Lavra of Saint Theodosius the Coenobite of the 6th century. On the road that connects Jericho to Jerusalem, in the desert of Judea, the Holy Monastery of Hozeva was built. It is the monastery of the Theotokos of Hozeva, built over the ruins of the Lavra of Hozeva. This place was always considered holy being under the protection of the Theotokos. The Godparents Joachim and Anna offering a sacrifice in the Temple of Solomon were evicted because they were childless. While Saint Anna secluded herself in her house and was entreating God to give her a child to dedicate to the Temple, Joachim fled to the desert, fasted for 40 days and nights in the cave saying “I shall not descend even for a drink until my Lord and my God visits me, and let my wish be food and drink”. While praying, an angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Theotokos. It concerns the cave where Prophet Elijah fled under God’s commandment to escape the rage of Jezabel, wife of Ahaab, king of Israel. A building complex consisting of three floors which includes a Church, chapels in the cave of the Prophet Elijah, ascetic places, cells, hostels, aid stations, courtyards, basements etc. The central Church dedicated to the nativity of the Theotokos “Theotokos Hozevitissa” is a single floor basilica with a dome. In the north section of the floor there are mosaics and its décor includes a two headed byzantine eagle. The floor is dated to the 12th century.

At the end of the 6th century, the monastery flourished under the leadership of Saint George the Hozevite. Around the same period the monastery counted more than 2000 monks. There, in the old 6th century chapel is located the Tomb of Saint George Hozevite. On the third floor of the monastery is the Cave-Church of Prophet Elijah. According to tradition it is there where Prophet Elijah hid, and was fed by a crow. According to tradition the monastery was rebuilt in the area which belonged to the parents of the Theotokos, Joachim and Anna. On the walls and the ceiling, some Christian symbols and hundreds of inscriptions were drawn, which record names and the country of the buried Fathers. The present building is dated from 1878 over the ruins of the old Lavra of Hozeva. The early chapel is dedicated to the five Syrian monks, the first builders of the monastery. The chapel of Saint George the Hozevite most probably is over the area of this original church. During mid-6th century and the beginning of the 7th century the monastery peaked under the leadership of Saint George Hozevite. The Persian invasion brought terrible destruction to the monastery and most of the monks were earlier slaughtered or scattered in the surrounding area.

The monastery following repeated destructions survived with a few monks until the 12th century when it was repaired by the emperor Emmanuel Comnenos. In the 13th century it was finally abandoned until its restoration in 1878 by the Greek monk Kallinikon.

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