February 24, 2020

The First Location Where the Head of Saint John the Baptist Was Found

About 200 meters west of the traditional location on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven at the Dome of the Ascension, is a chapel which has been in the hands of the Russians since 1907 that marks the spot where the head of Saint John the Baptist was buried and discovered by two Syrian monks in the fourth century. Over this spot is the Chapel of the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist, which celebrates its feast day on February 24th.

According to tradition, a follower of Christ called Joanna saw Herodias, the wife of Herod Antipas, throw John’s head on a rubbish heap. Joanna recovered it and buried it in a clay pot on the Mount of Olives. In the fourth century, Saint John the Baptist appeared in a dream to two Syrian monks who had come to Jerusalem as pilgrims, and showed them the spot where his head was buried.

It is believed Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, built a chapel over the spot known as the location of the first finding of the head of Saint John the Baptist. The present chapel has a fourth century mosaic floor with a hollow said to mark the spot where the head was discovered.