The College Buildings
The College occupies a modern three story building with an open-air roof terrace.
Administrative offices, reception room, and extensive library are found on the ground floor. The second floor houses a large and electronically well-equipped room for briefings, lectures, and reflection sessions; there is also a peaceful chapel for private prayer.
On the third floor, there are rooms for up to forty people to stay in comfortable rooms, each with a sink separate from the en suite shower and toilet. A common room has facilities for making tea and coffee, and there is a fridge for storing cold drinks and snacks. Pilgrims spend time quietly here in the early hours of the day and in the evening they enjoy conversation and music. Above the third floor is a roof terrace with views across Jerusalem, a wonderful place in warm weather to rest, pray, or socialize. It is an ideal vantage point from which to see the sun rise over the Mount of Olives.
The College is situated next to the Cathedral, the Cathedral Guest House and the Diocesan Offices. Together these comprise the Close. The Close is an enclave of peace with beautiful gardens to walk and sit in. The College is surrounded by a ‘Biblical Garden’ with trees, plants and flowers featured in the Bible. It was designed in the 1980s by Nigel Hepper, one of the leading botanists at the time at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens in London. The College gardener is available to share his extensive knowledge with interested pilgrims. More information can be found below.
The College’s study pilgrimages are rooted in a regular pattern of prayer. Pilgrims join the daily worship of the Cathedral, which holds Eucharists each morning and Evening Prayer daily, and also attend Sunday services as often as their programme allows. The 9:30 a.m. Sunday Eucharist is bi-lingual (England and Arabic), giving College pilgrims the opportunity to meet members of the local Palestinian community and the many visitors passing through Jerusalem.
The liturgy at the College is of a broadly Anglican style because we are part of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. We seek to be a place of ecumenical hospitality, and Christians of all denominations join our study pilgrimages, enjoying the Cathedral as their church home away from home.
The Guest House
Meals are taken in the Cathedral’s Pilgrim Guest House, which also serves as accommodation for other visitors to Jerusalem. The dining room, with its attractive, “old world” feel, is a comfortable space where course members enjoy meals in a sociable environment. -Our excellent Head Chef and catering team present both local and international dishes, making the most of the abundant fresh produce grown locally. The quality of the food is a highlight for pilgrims who stay at the College.
There is also an idyllic courtyard garden in the Guest House, where drinks can be taken and meals eaten there too. It is a favourite gathering place any time of day during the warmer weather. An outside bar which serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
The overwhelming atmosphere at St. George’s College is one of hospitality; the staff and students get to know one another and share their lives during meals, site visits, and worship services. Every study pilgrimage builds a community of fellowship. The College and the Close provide the perfect environment in which to make this happen.
More Information about the Biblical Garden
The Bible is full of references to plants and flowers, and to understand some biblical imagery it is helpful to have a knowledge of the flora of the Holy Land.
The idea of creating a biblical garden at St. George’s College was first conceived in 1985. It was hoped that the garden would be a place of meeting, prayer and reflection and also a unique educational resource.
After a major renovation project of the College building in the late 1980s, the grounds were in need of reconstruction. Plans were drawn up for a new biblical garden by Mr. F. Nigel Hepper, one of the leading botanists at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens in London. Mr. Hepper had specialised in the plants of the Bible and written books on the subject, including Planting a Bible Garden (HMSO, 1987) and An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Bible Plants (IVP, 1992).
The College gave certain specifications. The new garden had to be easy to maintain, so the planting of shrubs and trees was given priority over labour-intensive herbaceous plants. As the College is used throughout the year, the garden needed to be colourful through the different seasons. Careful consideration was therefore given to the flowering season of a wide variety of plants and to foliage colour.
Work on the new garden began in late 1990. Adam Toft, a British horticulturist, worked with two Palestinian gardeners to realise Nigel Hepper’s designs. Today, years later, the garden still provides a microcosm of the botanical environment experienced by Jesus and the prophets and patriarchs before him.
Spacious paths wind through shady spots where there are tables and seats which allow visitors and students to reflect and pray. Here there are fragrant plants, including lavender, sage and mint. Fruit trees, fig, pomegranate, lemon and olive, lead to the College entrance. A Judas tree stands with cypresses; a young cedar of Lebanon gives shade as it did in King Solomon’s time. The planting scheme provides opportunities for reflection: “by planting a Christ-thorn near the date palm there is a contrast between the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with palm leaves (symbolising victory) with the crown of thorns on the Cross.” Next to every plant there is a plaque. Each is identified by its name in Arabic, English and Latin along with a relevant biblical reference.
The dedication of the garden in May 1993 by the Most Revd. Samir Kafity, together with the Dean of the College, The Very Rev. Dr. John L. Peterson, marked the completion of a major phase in the College’s enlargement and renovation.
The Biblical Garden at St George’s College has delighted pilgrims, friends and visitors for several decades. They find their minds, bodies and spirits refreshed in this veritable oasis of biblical flora.