The Abbey of the Mother of God of Mount Sion, 2nd half 13th century. Seal (Lead, 34 mm, 30.00 g, 1 h). +SIG SP[I] SCI DЄ MONTЄ SYON ("Seal of the Holy Spirit of Mount Sion") The Holy Spirit descending on the apostles. Rev. +TRANSITVS DЄI GЄNITRICIS The Dormition of the Mother of God: Mary, lying on her deathbed, surrounded by apostles, passes into the hand of God. Schlumberger, Sceaux et bulles de l'Orient Latin, no. 15. Extremely rare. A incredibly interesting and important seal. Very fine.
Already in the early 5th century, a basilica was built on mount Sion, the site of several major events of early Christianity. It was rebuilt after being destroyed by the Persians in the early 7h century. In 1009, the Byzantine church was destroyed again, this time by Caliph Al-Hakim. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they constructed a new basilica on the ruins. In addition, a monastic order was founded and named after Our Lady of Mount Sion. Even though the Latin church was destroyed once more in the 13th century, we know that the order continued to exist – the parallel seal edited by Schlumberger is attached to a document dated to March 1289. On Mount Sion, the Cenacle could be found, the room where the Last Supper took place and where (according to tradition) the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles during Pentecost. It was also close to here where the Virgin lived after the death and resurrection of Christ, and where she died: the place of the Virgin’s Dormition or Assumption. The present seal depicts both these scenes on its obverse and reverse, making it a most remarkable testimony to the late Crusader history in Jerusalem.
Today, there still is a Benedictine abbey of the Dormition just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem near the Zion Gate. It was dedicated in 1910 and built on land bought by emperor Wilhelm II from Sultan Abdul Hamid for 120,000 gold marks. The abbey is also the namesake of the secret order of the “Priory of Sion”, which figures in the 1982 book “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”. Many elements of this fanciful conspiracy were borrowed by Dan Brown for his novel “The Da Vinci Code” and eventually made into a film of the same name by Ron Howard in 2006, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou.