In 1882 large groups of pilgrims began coming to the Holy Land under the direction of the French Assumptionists. The experience gained from there pilgrimages prompted the religious to build a center to host French pilgrims. The location of the new center would be right next to the walls of the Holy City of Jerusalem. The building would be known as Notre Dame de France.
Thanks to the help of generous benefactors, the Assumptionists were able to acquire a 4,000 square meter property right next to the French Hospital of St. Louis des Français. The cornerstone of the building was officially laid on June 10th, 1885.
In 1888, Notre Dame received its first pilgrims. The cornerstone of the Chapel was laid during the Eucharistic World Congress of 1893. The Chapel was consecrated the following year. In 1904, after twenty years of ongoing construction, the guest house was completed and crowned with the great statue of the Virgin Mary, a replica of Our Lady of Salvation in Paris.
The complex was completed according to Abbé Brisacier´s original plan, harmoniously, combining architectural sobriety with a contemporary style.
Until the First World War, the building also served as a seminary for future Assumptionists. After the World War II, the building was heavily damaged during the Israeli-Arab conflict of 1948. The south wing became unsuitable as a result of the explosion of two bombs, and became an Israeli guard post. The north wing and the small houses in the garden were occupied by numerous refugees. The Assumptionists lived in the central wing next to the chapel and continued their mission, offering hospitality to a greatly reduced number of faithful pilgrims.
With the situation having become untenable, the center was eventually turned over to the Holy See on March 2nd, 1972 and restored to its original status as a pilgrim center.
The reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Notre Dame center became a project very dear to Pope Paul VI. Starting in 1973, Notre Dame of Jerusalem was gradually resurrected as the Holy See´s international pilgrim center. On December 27th, 1978 His Eminence Cardinal Terence J. Cooke, Archbishop of New York, officially promulgated the decree signed by Saint John Paul II which established the center as a Pontifical Institute and an ecumenical holy place.
The first Intifada in 1978 and the second Intifada in 2000 had severe effects on the social an political situation if the country and particularly for pilgrims in the Holy Land. On November 26th, 2004 Saint John Paul II, entrusted the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center to the Legionaries of Christ with a Motu Proprio. Fr. Juan Maria Solana, LC. was assigned as the new Chargé.
At present, the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, is committed to fulfilling every aspect entrusted by Saint John Paul II to promote and facilitate the fruitful spiritual development of local and international Christians and pilgrims from all over the world.