Image of “Our Lady, Mother of Grace,” Trsat, Croatia (prob. 12th cent.)

An Empty Tomb and a Site Full of Faith: Where Was the Virgin Mary Buried?

(Read the article on one page)

The Virgin Mary is one of the world most famous women from the ancient world. The teachings of her son surpassed her life story, but her tale provides one of the greatest legends about a mother's love. Nowadays, it's hard to find real artifacts that are said to be left by the Virgin Mother, but there is one place which is still traditionally associated with her.

There is a tomb at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem which is traditionally said to be Mary’s burial location. There are at least two versions of her story associated with this– one from the Bible and second from the Jewish ancient book Toledot Yeshu . Although the texts have some differences, they claim that Mary (or Miriam) was the mother of Joshua – also known as Jesus Christ.

Fact or Fiction?

Legends say that Mary died of natural causes. As the Dormition of Theotokos wrote, she passed away like she was falling asleep. It is unknown how old she was when she died. However, according to some writings, her body was resurrected and, like her son, on the third day her soul and body went to heaven. Her tomb was said to be discovered empty three days after her funeral.

Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Dormition Church (Mary's Tomb), Jerusalem.

Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Dormition Church (Mary's Tomb), Jerusalem. ( Public Domain)

The Catholic Encyclopedia asserts that the earliest resources talking about Mary suggest that her life ended in Jersusalem:

“The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the Acts of St John by Prochurus, written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary’s death. (...) The two letters B. Inatii missa S. Joanni, written about 370, show that the Blessed Virgin passed the remainder of her days at Jerusalem. That of Dionysius the Areopagite to the Bishop Titus (363), the Joannis liber de Dormitione Mariae (third to fourth century), and the treatise De transitu B.M. Virginis (fourth century) place her tomb at Gethsemane (..). There was never any tradition connecting Mary’s death and burial with the city of Ephesus.”

Many still doubt that the tomb really belonged to the Virgin Mary. In the 5th century AD, Cyril of Scythopolis wrote in Euthymiaca Historia that the Emperor Marcian and his wife Pulcheria asked for the relics of the the famous Mary. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Juvenal, answered that there were no relics because Mary left her tomb three days after her funeral.

Altar in the Tomb of Mary, Jerusalem.

Altar in the Tomb of Mary, Jerusalem. ( CC BY SA 2.0 )

Mary’s Tomb

Since the early beginnings of Christianity, Mary’s supposed tomb has been considered a sacred site. The tomb was excavated in 1972 by Bellarmino Bagatti, an archaeologist and Franciscan friar. He believed that the site is an ancient cemetery dating back to the 1st century AD, and that it could contain burials of biblical heroes.

The team of researchers explored the three burial chambers and Bagatti decided that the tomb must be the one described by Christian sources as Mary’s famous tomb. In the 5th century, a small church was located near the tomb, but it was destroyed in 614 by the Persians.

Nonetheless, continued to be considered a sacred place during the Muslim domination. They believed that it was the burial place of the prophet Isa’s (Jesus’) mother. In 1130 AD, when the Crusaders arrived in Jerusalem, they rebuilt the church and installed Benedictines there.

Mary's Tomb.

Mary's Tomb. ( CC BY 2.0 )

The church was built in an early Gothic style, and could have been one of the most beautiful monasteries of Jerusalem, if it hadn't been destroyed by Saladin in 1187. However, the crypt remained untouched. It was rebuilt once more in the second half of the 14th century when it became a monastery for Franciscan friars, but it was officially expelled by the Franciscans in the 1757. The church was also intact during the Ottoman battles in Jerusalem.

Nowadays it contains the chapels of St Joseph, Joachim, and Anne (Mary's parents) and the tomb of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. The crypt is still very mysterious because there is no physical evidence to verify the story which has been alive since ancient times. However, it is still possible that the chamber contained the Virgin Mary’s body for three days.

Comments

The first gospel, that of Mark, was not written as a historical biography but rather as an allegory* which is 'an extended metaphor'. All other gospels used Mark's gospel as their example.
The gospel of Mark was the first document that put 'Jesus' on earth. Before that messianic Jews only worshipped a 'Jesus' that lived in 'higher realms'. They hoped this being would kick out the Romans.
The christianity we know today was created by Paul who admitted he never met 'Jesus' himself.
(*Wikipedia - allegory: "... Writers or speakers typically use allegories as literary devices or as rhetorical devices that convey hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events, which together create the moral, spiritual, or political meaning the author wishes to convey. ..." )

Hah, I know the answer to this one. She was no longer a virgin when buried. That's why you won't find the Virgin Mary's tomb.

Jason, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.  It’s quite possible a highly trained spiritual adept did live in the first century. As to his “god” status, that’s just religion’s designation. But as to everything being simply figments of wild imaginations, I do believe there is more to it than that.

The tomb of Rosa Bal contains the remains of a real person, not a god. Those who built it did not make any claims about it being Jesus; they simply revered him as a great spiritual teacher and enshrined his memory (and body) in that tomb. The aural tradition that goes along with him is backed by secular documents from the 1st century – not religious writings. The similarities are uncanny. Too uncanny to be only coincidence.

It simply brings all this hocus pocus religious claptrap down to the human level where it originated before getting blown up into religious lunacy. Religion has always been a prison for minds. It’s a vehicle of control lest we have moral anarchy. But there is a golden kernel of truth inside the husk of symbolism which religion relies on. 

It’s just nice, occasionally, to discover historical facts that may hold answers to where our crazy myths originated. It could all be fiction certainly. But Kashmir was not a Christian community. There’s a bit of a mystery with all this and I don’t believe it was simply concocted as no one, particularly the church, would stand to benefit.

Maybe, just like jesus she never lived. It's all myth and conjecture. Nothing in the babble, except for the physical places was real. The people allegedly to have wrote the Books weren't real people. It was a book written by men to control man, woman and child. The whole babble falls apart in the first few pages. In the beginning a mythical being created everything from nothing. and on the 3rd day it said let their be light? WTF, really? How was time kept the previous 2 days without light, which is fundamental for time keeping. That being would also have to be something sitting in something previously before it could created everything from nothing. You can't take 2 nothings and create another something. It is impossible to create 2 things without something physical. The story of the "big bang' is false in my opinion. The recent models are showing a Multi-Verse, which makes sense. We can't see it yet because we don't have the tools here on Earth. Black holes are most likely conduits to other Multi-Verses. The story of Mary, Jesus, Moses, God are all figments of someone's wild imagination. The Catholick Crutch has to keep up the charades in order to keep it's flock in the dark about the whole tale. We all know that no one can rise from the dead. There has NEVER been any other tale except the one written in the babble about such nonsense.

Its good to see some new theories on old subjects but i would like to see more on australia

Pages

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Open Book Photo
A legend is a tale regarded as historical even though it has not been proven, and the term “myth” can refer to common yet false ideas. Many myths and legends describe our history, but they are often treated skeptically. This is because many of them, while explaining a phenomenon, involve divine or supernatural beings.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Technology

Invention of Wheel - Sumer
In today’s world, technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. The latest gadget today is tomorrow’s antique. As a result of this rapid development of technology, we often take things for...

Ancient Places

Google Earth image of manmade stone structures in Saudi Arabia
Deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia, 400 peculiar stone structures have been found, dating back thousands of years ago. These stone features were discovered by archaeologists with the use of satellite imagery, identifying what they call stone "gates" in an extremely unwelcome and harsh area of the Arabian Peninsula.

Opinion

The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article