Farther along the alley is the commandingly situated Roman Catholic Church of the Dormition (the "Falling Asleep" of the Virgin), a neo-Romanesque building designed by Heinrich Renard and consecrated in 1908 which is served by Benedictine monks. Its centralized ground-plan betrays the influence of the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It has a beautiful mosaic pavement, in the center of which are three intersecting circles, symbolizing the Trinity; from this central point rays radiate outwards to the next two (concentric) circles, the first of which contains the names of the prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the second those of the twelve apostles. Round the outside are the signs of the Zodiac and an inscription
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(Proverbs 8,25-26). In the vaulting of the apse is a mosaic of the Virgin and Child. The chapels round the central area are dedicated to the English Benedictine St Willibald, the Three Kings, St Joseph, the Forefathers of Christ and St John the Baptist. In the center of the crypt, under a mosaic dome, is a sculpture of the Dormition (the Virgin on her deathbed). Round the walls of the crypt are chapels endowed by various foreign countries.
In 1898, the "German Assiciation for the Holy Land" acquired a plot of land on Mount Zion. The german emperor Wilhelm II had received it from the turkish sultan Abdul Hamid "for the benefit of german catholics". Heinrich Renard, the architect for the archdiocese of Cologne, was commissioned to draw up the plans for St Mars's Church. This site, where Christians had for centuries commemorated the death of the blessed virgin Mary, was entrusted to the german benedictines in 1906.
Built in the style of the large romanesque churches of the Rhine area, the present basilica stands on the ruins of the byzantine Hagia Sion. The corner stone was laid on the 7th of October 1900. Renard succeeded in matching the neo-romanesque architecture with the oriental environment. This is confirmed by the many basreliefs carved by local stone-masons on the outside walls.
In the semicircular apse, above the altar, shining mosaics represent Mary with the child Jesus. The words "I am the Light of the World" are insribed on the open book that Jesus is holding. Just beneath is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Further down are pictured eight prophets who announced the coming of the Messiah: Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. The mosaics in the two niches below depict the Annunciation; on the left it is written "Hail, full of grace" and on the right: "I am the Lord's servant".
The mosaics in the side chapels represent from left to right: 1. St. Boniface surrounded by St. Lioba and St. Mauritius, 2. St. John the Baptist, 3. Jesus' family tree, 4. the three wise kings surrounded by bishops, the paron saints of Cologne, 5. Mary, the patron saint of Bavaria, surrounded by the patron saints of the bavarian dioceses. The sixth altar is dedicated to St. Benedict.
The mosaic pavement is the work of the benedictine monk Fr. Mauritius Gisler. In the center, three interwoven rings represent the Holy Trinity. The second and third circles carry the names of the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament. Above, symbols of the four evangelists link the names of the prophets to those of the twelve apostles who, like torches, carried the word of God to the four corners of the world, represented here by the signs of the zodiac and the months of the year.
The rotunda of the crypt recalls the Holy Sepulcher and the resurrection of Jesus. In its center, surrounded by six pillars, lies the statue of the blessed virgin, asleep. This is where, according to christian tradition, Mary lived and died after her son's resurrection. In the dome above the statue, the mosaic represents Jesus Christ surrounded by six women from the Old Testament: Eve, Miriam, Yael, Judith, Ruth and Esther. The dormition of Mary is pictured in the apse. The altars around the crypt are gifts from Hungary, Austria, the Ivory Coast, the USA, Brazil and Venezuela. In the front part of the crypt, there is the chapel of the Holy Spirit, which is also the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. It is a place for prayer and contemplation. In the apse, the representation of the Pentecost in the Upper Room on Mt. Zion reminds us of Psalm 134,3: "May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion".