The Saint Jacob Cathedral (Hebrew: קתדרלת יעקב הקדוש) is an ancient Armien Chruch, located in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Church is dedicated to two Christian saints of that name: James the Greater (one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus) and James the Less (the brother of Jesus).
At the entrance to the Cathedral, a large plaque marks the site of the grave of Jerusalem’s 94th Armenian Patriarch, the late Archbishop Guregh Israelian.
Another unpretentious grave sits under an archway a few paces away, at the other end of the vestibule. This one is the last resting place of the Armenian Patriarch, Abraham, a contemporary of Saladdin.
Upon entering the Cathedral, you will find old “ganteghs” (oil lamps) dangling from the soaring vaulted dome and tallow candles dotting the three altars. The only source of light, the oil lamps, are still lovingly tended by altar boys who replenish them with oil. The candles, made by the Patriarchate’s own candle-maker, imparting a mystical significance to Armenian church rites.
To the left of the entrance are three small chapels. The first from the entrance contains the tomb of Makarios, the bishop of Jerusalem in the fourth century. The third from the entrance is the shrine where the head of St. James the Apostle is entombed.
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Church has served as a bomb shelter, because of its one meter thick walls. The Cathedral is open to the public only during services.