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The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Megali Panagia has within it's grounds the cave of St Melanie and the chains she used to hold weigh herself down whilst she prayed as part of her ascetic practise. At the time of St Melanie, there was a tunnel that led from the monastery to the Sepulchre and she would go to pray after everyone had left and would leave before anyone arrived.

Her story:

St. Melania the Elder (325-410), one of the wealthiest citizens of the empire, was born in Spain, and was related to Paulinus of Nola. Her father, Marcellinus, was of consular rank. She married at fourteen, and moved with her husband, Valerius Maximus Basilius Proconsul of Achaea and a Praefectus Urbi, to the suburbs of Rome. Her husband and two out of three sons had died by the time she was twenty-two. She became a Christian in Rome and, leaving her son, Valerius Publicola, with a guardian, set off to Alexandria, accompanied by her servants, to join other Christian ascetics to visit the monks at Nitria.

She stayed with the monks in the desert near Alexandria, Egypt (today the area is known as Wadi Natroun) for about six months. When persecution broke out after the death of Bishop Athanasius in 373 and many of the monks were exiled to Diocaesaraea in Palestine, St Melania followed and supported them financially. The governor had her briefly imprisoned, but released her when he realized her social status. She built a convent in Jerusalem, and a monastery on the Mount of Olives for the monk and theologian Rufinus of Aquileia.

Around the year 400 she left for Rome to see her son, who had married Caeionia Albina, daughter of Caeionius Rufius Albinus. Due to her influence, her grand-daughter, known as Melania the Younger would later take up the religious life.

When the Visigoths marched on Rome in 410 Melania, her daughter-in law, Albina, and grand-daughter Melania and her husband fled to Sicily. From there they went to the family estate at Thagaste in North Africa, where they remained for seven years. They then went to Jerusalem, where Malania died around 417.

The entrance is located along the beginning of the Via Dolorosa and closes by midday. It has an entrance fee of 10 Shekel.

Map Link: HERE

Click photo to see larger image and longer description:

Jerusalem Old City - Megali Panagia

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