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History of the Cathedral

The building of the Cathedral Church of St George’s and the Cathedral Close was begun in 1891 under the stewardship of Bishop Blyth, the fourth Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem. The Cathedral was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury in 1898.

The Pilgrim Guesthouse was established in 1923 in buildings which had housed the clergy and choir school.

Today, along with the Cathedral Church of St George and the Pilgrim Guesthouse, the site houses the Bishop’s residence, the Diocesan offices, and St George’s College, a residential education centre offering courses on the Holy Land to lay and clergy alike.

The history of Anglicanism in Jerusalem goes back to 1841. However, a proposal for the establishment of a permanent post in Jerusalem by the Church Missionary Society was under consideration as early as 1821. The first Bishop arrived in 1841. In 1845, the first Anglican Church (Christ Church, Jaffa Gate) of the city was dedicated. The Bishopric started as an Anglo-Prussian union in Jerusalem for Anglicans and Lutherans.

In 1881, the Anglo-Prussian union lapsed and the Bishopric became solely Anglican centring on the Cathedral Church of St. George in Jerusalem, which was built and dedicated during the episcopacy of the fourth Bishop, George Blyth, in 1898.

The architect, George Jeffery, designed a typically English collegiate quadrangle. Pilgrims entered through the Gate Tower in the outer west wall where the mounting block for horses can still be seen. Horse and carriage was the means of transport which explains the narrow gateway: a challenge to twenty-first century forms of transport.

The Cathedral lies to the east of the quadrangle, the clergy housing (now the Guesthouse) to the north and the Bishop’s residence to the south. The central monument constitutes a large column, thought to be Byzantine in date, topped by a Roman cannonball and Byzantine cross.

During the First World War most of the staff of the Cathedral were advised to leave by the British Foreign Office and the Cathedral and its Close were used by the Turks as a military depot and boarding house. The Bishop’s residence became the home and headquarters of Djemal Pasha, the Turkish General in Jerusalem.

Bishop Blyth died in London in 1914 and his successor, Bishop Rennie MacInnes, took up residence in Cairo, access to Jerusalem being impossible at this time. Following the Balfour declaration and Allenby’s entry to Jerusalem in November 1917, Bishop MacInnes returned.

The surrender of Jerusalem was signed in the Bishop’s residence on 9th December 1917 and the Cathedral was reopened after a closure of three years.

Following the violence which erupted at the conclusion of the British Mandate in 1948, the local Arabic speaking congregation at St Paul’s in West Jerusalem moved to St George’s Cathedral where they have worshipped ever since.

The Cathedral is home today to two congregations: the indigenous Palestinian Anglicans, often called the ‘Living Stones,’ and a community of expatriate English speaking members.

The local Arabic speaking Anglicans are part of the historic Christian presence here since the time of the first Pentecost:

‘Cretans and Arabs – in our own language we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power’ Acts 2:11

The Cathedral remains a focal point for the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East and the Worldwide Anglican Communion.

 

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