1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Olives, Mount of
OLIVES, MOUNT OF, or Mount Olivet (Ὄρος Ἐλαιῶνος or τῶν Ἐλαιῶν; mod. Jebel-eṭ-Ṭur), the ridge facing the Temple Mount at Jerusalem on the east, and separated from it by the Kidron. A basis of hard cretaceous limestone is topped with softer deposits of the same, quaternary deposits forming the summit. There are four distinct elevations in the ridge: traditionally the southernmost, which is separated by a cleft from the others, is called the “Hill of Offence,” and said to be the scene of Solomon's idolatry. The summit to the north of this is often (wrongly) spoken of as Olivet proper. Still worse is the error of calling the next hill but one to the north “Scopus.” The top of the ridge affords a comprehensive view. There are four Old Testament references: 2 Sam. xv. 30 sqq., Neh. viii. 15, Ezek. xi. 23, Zech. xiv. 4. In the New Testament the place is mentioned in connexion with the last days of the life of Jesus. He crossed it on his kingly entry into Jerusalem, and upon it he delivered his great eschatological address (Mark xiii. 3). That the Ascension took place from the summit of the Mount of Olives is not necessarily implied in Acts i. 12; the words “over against Bethany” (Luke xxiv. 50) perhaps mean one of the secluded ravines on the eastern slope, beside one of which that village stands. But since Constantine erected the “Basilica of the Ascension” on the spot marked by a certain sacred cave (Euseb. Vita Const. iii. 41), the site of this event has been placed here and marked by a succession of churches. The present building is quite modern, and is in the hands of the Moslems. Close to the Chapel of the Ascension is the vault of St Pelagia, and a little way down the hill is the labyrinth of early Christian rock-hewn sepulchral chambers now called the “Tombs of the Prophets.” During the middle ages Olivet was also shown as the mount of the Transfiguration. A chapel, bearing the name of the Caliph Omar, and said to occupy the place where he encamped when Jerusalem surrendered to the Moslems, formerly stood beside the Church of the Ascension. There are a considerable number of monasteries and churches of various religious orders and sects on the hill, from whose beauty their uniform and unredeemed ugliness detracts sadly. On Easter day 1907 was laid the foundation of a hospice for pilgrims, under the patronage of the German empress.