The Notre Dame Monastery is part of the French complex, a plot of land that reaches as far as Mamila avenue.
France played a very important role in helping and supporting the Turkish in the First World War, in return( for which it was part of the Capitulation Agreement) france received a full mandate to sponsor and control the Catholic holy places in the Holy Land.
The count named de Paila who made a pilgrimage to the holy land in the late 19 century, invested all his money and energy in helping the French pilgrims and bought the French compound, thus turning it into a French sovereignty area.
Count Paila also worked to increase pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and managed to persuade and organize two cruise ships to visit Israel, but thousands of pilgrims who arrived on those luxury ships (some of them friends and business stakeholders)ended up in tents in Notre Dame compound.
Paila was upset and decided instead to set up a French hostel.
The Count wanted to build an hotel that would overshadow the Russian Church that would be taller and more magnificent. In addition to that it was the camp of the French crusader Tancred in th 11 century who camped here and from here set out to conquer the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The architect of the Noterdam was one of the assumptionist fathers who helped to ascend the French pilgrims.
The building rose to a height of four floors and had 410 rooms that could accommodate about 1,600 pilgrims at once. The building was handed over to the Assumptionist fathers who initially ran it until World War I. The French were then expelled by the Ottomans, due to being citizens of an “enemy state.”
Construction was completed at the end of the 19th century and at the same time the new gate was breached in the wall for the sake of the French pilgrims, the compound was expropriated by the Ottoman Turks who looted it and held parties and banquets.
During the War of Independence during Haniyeh’s dissolution, on September 19, 1948, Arabs planted explosives at the foot of the eastern part of the building and as a result, some of the east part’s walls collapsed and were destroyed.
The hostel was returned to its owner and the State of Israel agreed to participate in the expenses of restoring the building. Part of the building continued to be used as a hostel for pilgrims, and Jews also lived there temporarily.
The roof of the hotel served as a tourist observation point for the Old City (to this day)
After the Six Day War, a modest ceremony was held, in which the commander of the Jerusalem Brigade returned the expropriated wing to the representative of the monastery. At the end of the ceremony, the monks were presented with a gift, an olive tree box with the inscription: “To the Church Fathers of Notre Dame de France, with appreciation and greetings from the Israel Defense Forces.” Inside the box was a key, which symbolized the return of the expropriated parts to its owner.
The Assumptionist fathers sold the monastery to a “trust” subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund, the Vatican discovered this and immediately vetoed the sale, as the building belonged to French sovereignty as the representative of the Catholic public in the country, and therefore demanded the hostel.
In the end, the Jewish National Fund transferred the building to the Vatican, and added interest on it.
The monastery serves as a church and hotel, of the highest standard, and a restaurant was built on