Mosque Name: Kathisma Church
Year of construction (AH): unknown
Year of construction (AD): 8th century
GPS: 31°44’21.74"N 35°12’46.99"E
Original Qibla: Petra
Rebuilt facing Mecca: never
In 1992, 350 meters north of the monestary of Mar Elias (hence between the monestary and Ramat Rahel) were discovered the remains of an important Byzantine church. This church is located about midway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, at a place where some Jewish traditions hold that Rachel gave birth to Benjamin and then died. Also, it is remembered as a place where Mary took rest on her way to Bethlehem (according to the Protoevangelium of James). Other sources tell us that there was a church there, called the Church of the Kathisma of Mary Theotokos (Church of the Sear of Mary).
Several excavations led by Rina Avner revealed an octogonal church from the Byzantine era, with a rock directly in the middle, presumable the one that Mary rested on. Various numismatic and ceramic evidence led the excavators to date the church as early as the 5th century. It seemed to have been renovated around 531 CE. After this time (late 7th century or early 8th century) a mihrab was built on the south side of the church, leading historiean to beleive that the church wad transformed into a mosque. (possibly only in its southern part.) Some of the floors and mosaics were well preserved, leading Guillaume Dye (The Qur’an and its Hypertextuality in Light of Redaction Criticism, Universite libre de Bruxelles, ULB) to see comparisons with the Dome of the Rock.
Measuring the mihrab of this ruin is difficult, as there is little left to work with. From the diagram below, you can see that the mihrab is on the south side, facing slightly east. We have had several volunteers visit this site and attempt to measure the mihrab. Are are in agreement that it faces south generally towards Petra.