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Home of Ananias of Damascus: The ancient underground Chapel of Saint Ananias

David Goran

The House of Saint Ananias (also called the Chapel of Saint Ananias) is an ancient underground structure in Damascus, Syria, that is alleged to be the remains of the home of Ananias of Damascus, a follower of Jesus who baptized Saul (who then became Paul the Apostle).

Eastern tradition includes St Ananias as one of the 72 disciples sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1).

Entrance. Photo Credit

Entrance. Photo Credit

 

Saint Ananias altar. Photo Credit

Saint Ananias; altar. Photo Credit

 

This early Christian church reflects the simplicity of Christianity’s first worshippers. Photo Credit

This early Christian church reflects the simplicity of Christianity’s first worshippers. Photo Credit

When Ananias’s house became a church is not known. Byzantine tradition asserts that the house was sanctified as a church sometime before the Arab Conquest of AD 636.

Following the stoning to death of St Stephen in Jerusalem, supervised by Paul, Ananias prudently returned to his home city of Damascus, where he later became the city’s first bishop.

Paintings in the Chapel of Saint Ananias representing the conversion of Saint Paul, Photo Credit

Paintings in the Chapel of Saint Ananias representing the conversion of Saint Paul, Photo Credit

 

The church, which has been restored many times, is the only early Christian house of worship from the 1st century to survive in the city. Photo Credit

The church, which has been restored many times, is the only early Christian house of worship from the 1st century to survive in the city. Photo Credit

Legend records that he was arrested on the orders of the Governor, Licinius Mucianus, and sentenced to death for being the leader of the local Christian community.  It is thought that he was stoned to death outside the city. Over his tomb, a memorial was constructed, and later a monastery.

The monastery was frequently mentioned by Arabic writers of the medieval period. In 1820, the Franciscan Holy Land Custody reclaimed the site and rebuilt the house, adapting it into a chapel. Further changes were made in 1893 and 1973, giving the underground chapel its present form.

Story layout of Saint Ananias. Photo Credit

Story layout of Saint Ananias. Photo Credit

Material and written evidence, as well as oral tradition, suggest that the site of the present House of St Ananias is, in fact, the actual site of where St Ananias lived, and an important gathering place for the early Christians. His house was converted into a Sanctuary and has always been a place of religious devotion.

A simple structure consisting of two small rooms with bare stone walls, it houses only an altar, some icons, and a few pews. Along the main wall are some icons depicting the story of Paul the Apostle’s Damascene conversion.

To this day, services continue to be conducted within it’s ancient walls. Photo Credit

To this day, services continue to be conducted within its ancient walls. Photo Credit

It represents the simplicity of the initial Christians and is one of the earliest churches still standing where services continue to be held to this day.