My most recent trip to Israel (January 2010) included a visit to a church I had never before discovered. It's the Syrian Orthodox Church (and St. Mark's Convent) in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Located on the northern slope of Mount Zion, St. Mark's stands on the ancient site of the home of St. Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12) according to a 6th century inscription, discovered in 1940. The inscription, shown below (in the lower frame, with the English translation above it), reads, "This is the house of Mary, mother of John, called Mark. Proclaimed a church by the holy apostles under the name of the Virgin Mary, mother of God, after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven. Renewed after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the year A.D. 73."
As the site of the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, this church is also the possible location of the events of John 20:19-29 (the church lays claim to being the site of the Last Supper, but this is unlikely). The site was visited by many ancient pilgrims from the West as well as the East: the Bordeaux Pilgrim in AD 333, St. Cyril of Jerusalem in 348, Silvia the Spanish nun in 385, and many others.
We entered this church in the company of our tour guide, Nader (below), who is a Syrian Orthodox Christian, and was raised in the Old City and in this church.
The small chapel of the church is ornate, and adorned with many ancient relics, one of which is a highly venerated painting of the Virgin Mary that was (according to local tradition) painted by St. Luke himself!
Below the church are stairs leading to the remains of the ancient home, where John Mark, the writer of the second Gospel and traveling companion Paul and Barnabas, once lived.