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February 3, 2021

Monastery of Saint Symeon the God-Receiver in Katamonas of Jerusalem (which includes the location of his house and tomb)

Katamon is a Jewish neighborhood in south-central Jerusalem. The official Hebrew name, Gonen, is mainly used in municipal publications. Katamon is derived from the Greek κατὰ τῷ μοναστηρίῳ ("by the monastery"). The neighborhood is built next to an old Greek Orthodox monastery, believed from around the twelfth century to be built over the home and the tomb of Saint Symeon the God-Receiver, who lived to an old age in order to see and hold in his arms the Messiah forty days after His birth, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. 
The Greek Orthodox call it the "Monastery of Saint Symeon of Katamonas" or just "Katamonas Monastery" and believe that it is built over the house and tomb of Saint Symeon, with an inscription in a cave on the grounds interpreted to indicate that it was the tomb of Symeon's priestly forefathers. In 1890 the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Nikodemos I of Jerusalem built his summer house near the monastery (since the 1960s the building serves as a disabled care center).
The neighborhood was established in the early 1900s, shortly before World War I as a wealthy, predominantly Christian Arab neighborhood. The Greek Orthodox Christians at that time were not very church oriented and only attended church on major feast days. During the 1947–48 Civil War the monastery was used as a primary location in the battle, and the local population fled the neighborhood and it was soon repopulated by Jewish refugees.

In the late twelfth century the first monastery and church were built on the hill of Katamonas by Iberian monks from nearby Holy Cross Monastery, which they dedicated to Saint Symeon the God-Receiver, since it was believed his house and family garden were there. By 1666 the monastery fell to ruins and many centuries later, in 1859, Monk Abramios from Medyton bought the ruins with quite a large area of the Katamonas Monastery. The industrious and lover of beauty monk, toiled hard for twenty-one years to reconstruct the monastery. He also built a kitchen, storage rooms and tilled a garden.

In 1879 Abramios was guided by an early tradition and examined with extreme diligence the front yard of the early tower to discover the tomb of Saint Symeon. And in fact while excavating, he found tombs carved inside a rock (the bones had turned to dust). However, because they were full of rocks and dirt, he cleaned them and enlarged the entrance. These tombs even though they were outside the tower have been included within it by an additional wall and a church was built with the name of Saint Symeon within which are also the tombs. Inside the church, today the pilgrim can see carved stones from the early building, the different underground cisterns around the building and many sections of the ground which was laid with mosaics, indications of magnificent buildings which were built during the Christian era. On the iconostasis there are three icons of which one depicts the Holy and Righteous Symeon translating the prophecy of Isaiah for the Septuagint: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), the other one depicts the God-Receiver casting his ring into the river, and the third finding it in the belly of the fish. When Symeon translated the verse of Isaiah, it greatly disturbed his mind as he was filled with disbelief. For this reason, he dropped his ring in the river, saying to himself that if he ever found the ring again, he would believe what was written by the Prophet. According to tradition, when he stayed at a small town overnight and he bought a fish to eat with his companions, he found the ring inside the belly of the fish. Then his mind was cleared from any doubts and he went back to Jerusalem and lived there.