THE CONVENT OF THE HORTUS CONCLUSUS | SEALED GARDEN

THE CONVENT OF THE HORTUS CONCLUSUS | SEALED GARDEN

On the southern side of Artas Valley, and opposite the village, stands the Convent and the Chapel of Hortus Conclusus (the Sealed Garden). The sight of the Convent of Hortus Conclusus (The Sealed Gardens) is breathtaking, set as it is against a backdrop of mountains, with a picturesque stone bridge stretching over the verdant Artas Valley to the old core of the village of Artas. While there has been much immigration from the Bethlehem area to Latin America, the Church results from influence from the other direction. It is inhabited by an Italian order of nuns who had established themselves in Latin America. It was built by engineers from Bethlehem’s Morcos family in 1901, at the request of Mgr.

Soler Archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay, with an orphanage and a dispensary added to it in 1903. The Convent is believed to be on the site of King Solomon’s Gardens. The name of the Convent derives from Solomon’s Song, in which King Solomon speaks of his beloved, saying: “My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed a fountain sealed up. The plants are a paradise of pomegranates” (IV 12-13). According to Josephus, the Roman historian, King Solomon, escorted by his armed guards, used to go every day at dawn to enjoy the abundance of the running waters in the middle of the gardens. The otherwise quiet Convent comes alive on the Feast of Hortus Conclusus, which takes place on the third Sunday of August.

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