The Muristan area is located inside the Christian quarter in Old City of Jerusalem, and includes the Avtimos market and the German Church of the redeemer. The name is derived from the Persian word for "hospital", since it was built over the ruins of structures that were built by the Hospitallers, one of the most important military orders of the Crusaders.
The size of the Muristan area is 17 Dunam, which is part of the Christian quarter inside the old city. The area is located between three churches - the Church of Holy Sepulchre (Sepulcher), the Hospitallers' Church of St. John the Baptist and the German church of the Redeemer.
History of the place:
* Roman period
During the times of Jesus, the area of Muristan was outside the city walls, in an area which is the traditional site of Golgotha, the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus.
In the second C AD the Roman Forum was constructed in this area. This was the religious and political center of the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem).
* Byzantine period
The ancient church of St. John the Baptist was built in the 5th C AD, and is one of the oldest in the Holy Land. It was dedicated to John the Baptist, and it is possible that the church presented some of St. John's relics, including fragments of his skull. According to Orthodox tradition, his head was buried in this church.
The church was destroyed during the Persian or Arab conquest (7th C).
* Arab period
The Italian merchants from Amalfi established in the first half of the 11th C, during the Arab conquest, a Hospital and Church ("Santa Maria Latina"). They added later another Church ("Santa Maria Maggiore" - Saint Mary Major). These structures were built near the southern entrance to the Holy Sepulcher, in the area of Muristan. The arch of the Crusader gate is actually seen embedded on the north side of the Church of the Redeemer, which was built over its ruins.
* Crusaders period
The Italian church and hospice functioned as a hostel and a hospital to the wounded Crusaders during the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099.
Monks from the Benedictine order (Order of St Benedict) tended the sick and wounded warriors. This group evolved into a new local group that combined the religious zeal together with the Crusaders military life. The order, officially established in 1113, named their order after John the Baptist, and were called the "Knights Hospitallers of St. John", or commonly known as the Hospitallers. At the 11th C they purchased and renovated the nearby church and monastery of St John the Baptist, and their living quarters and the hospital structures were located around the present site called "Muristan" which is based on the Persian name for "hospital".
The Hospitallers became in the 12th C one of the important military orders defending the Holy Land. They established other structures and installations in the Holy Land, such as the knights halls in Acre.
* Late Ottoman period
The "Hospitallers quarter" area was ruined after the Mamlukes conquest (1267) until the late Ottoman period (19th C). Some of the monks continued to live in the ruins of the monastery of St John. In 1839 the monastery of St. John the Baptist was renovated by the Greek Orthodox church.
The eastern area of the Muristan was given as a present to the Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, honoring his visit to Jerusalem in 1869. Wilhelm later became Emperor for a short time (1888), but reigned only 99 days and died due to illness. His son, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888-1918), succeeded him as the German emperor. In 1898 he made an historic visit to the Holy Land with his his wife, Augusta Victoria. During this visit he dedicated the church of the Redeemer that the Germans built on this lot (1893 through 1898).
In 1903 the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem removed the ruins of the "Santa Maria Maggiore" church, and constructed the Greek market "Aftimos" (Avtimos).