Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

mu persons visiting the church for the first time care to take the chapels in their tornerai snier, but proceed at once to the spot of absorbing interest, the Sepulchre. It is a p. 1!, van ruiz feet long by eighteen broad, built of Santa Croce marble, and divided

* Lancm, ne Árst being the vestibule, or Angel's Chapel, where, in the centre, rests a P, 11 mm, id to be that which the angel rolled away from the mouth of the tomb,

pidin terwards sat. In this little chapel, only sixteen feet long by ten wide, 1 yr trinn minn, ste of which belong to the Greeks, five to the Latins, four to the Armenians, ale w 199s. A low doorway leads into the second chamber, the Holy Sepulchre. j.si vybrali capel, “ being only six feet by seven, or forty-two square feet in area, of W#961 km. L'on square feet are taken up by the marble slab shown as the tomb of the

is wore than three or four persons can be admitted at once, and then there is hardly y turlThe chapel is encased with marble, so that if it really encloses a rock-hewn step 1.1116 much as that described by the evangelists, not a vestige of it is visible. Forty-three xajoutuached lamja, belonging to the four sects, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, and Copts, are bungand from the ceiling, and are always kept burning; the roof is borne by marble 4:91000, and on the walls are reliefs representing the Saviour rising from the tomb. The und risk, on which the body of our Lord is supposed to have rested in death is cracked

w the centre, and is much worn by the lips of adoring pilgrims. It is five feet long, w, font wide, and three feet high. In this chapel, beside this slab, mass is said daily; and bwre, day by day, and century by century, pilgrims come to worship; and no one, be his faith what it may, can witness the scene of passionate excitement, or gaze upon that slab, which has been bathed with myriads of tears and kissed by countless lips, without emotion.

At Easter a scene is to be witnessed around this “Tomb of Christ " which is a disgrace to the name of Christianity. Thousands of persons assemble, in the Rotunda to witness the so-called Miracle of the Holy Fire, performed by the Greeks. In one of the walls of the Holy Sepulchre is a hole, and the great ambition of the fanatics is to take their station as near to this as possible, for, it is alleged, on Easter eve, when the Patriarch enters the Sepulchre, a flame of fire descends from heaven and lights the candles on the altar. The Patriarch, who is alone in the Sepulchre, passes out the fire through the hole; the priests light a bundle of tapers from the sacred flame and pass them to the people, and then follows a scene of indescribable excitement and confusion. Fighting, crushing, scrambling, screaming, cach one seeks to light a candle or taper from a light which has been kindled by the sacred flame. Those who are nearest, and who have been waiting all the day and all through the past night, of course have the best chance; but the excitement continues until all in the church bave lighted their tapers, those in the galleries lowering them by strings for that purpuan, others paying large sums of money to the priests for having the privilege of a light diront from the sacred flame. The miracle is said to date from the apostolic bu!", but thing is known of it historically till the ninth century. Down to the sixteenth eentunny the Latin participated in the festival, but since then it has been confined to the Grunds, Ammans, l'opite, sul Abyssinians, livery your thus brodograful riotr, sometimes accompanied by scenes of bloodshed,

,teilwulwhicle is a wild and noisy as any heathen orgie; and in 1831, wlun 6,10 1,1 more in the church, a scene occurred which is best told in the

language of an eye-witness. A panic took place in the church, and “the Turkish guards outside, frightened at the rush from within, thought that the Christians wished to attack them, and the confusion soon grew to a battle. The soldiers, with their bayonets, killed numbers of fainting wretches, and the walls were bespattered with blood and brains of men who had been felled like oxen with the butt-ends of the soldiers' muskets. Every one struggled to defend himself, and, in the mélée, all who fell were immediately trampled to death by the rest. So desperate and savage did the fight become that even the panicstruck and frightened pilgrims appeared at last to have been more intent upon the destruction of each other than desirous to save themselves. For my part, as soon as I had perceived the danger, I cried out to my companions to turn back, which they had done, but I myself was carried on by the press till I came near the door where all were fighting for their lives. Here, seeing destruction before me, I made every effort to get back. An officer of the Pasha's, equally alarmed with myself, was also trying to return; he caught hold of my cloak and pulled me down on the body of an old man who was breathing out his last sigh. As the officer was pressing me to the ground, we wrestled together among the dying and the dead with the energy of despair. I struggled with this man till I pulled him down, and happily got away upon my legs (I afterwards found that he never rose again), and scrambling over a pile of corpses I made my way back into the body of the church. The dead were lying in heaps, even upon the Stone of Unction, and I saw full four hundred wretched people, dead and living, heaped promiscuously one upon another-in some places about five feet high.”*

In making the tour of the Rotunda almost every step brings us to some place of legendary or historical interest. A few steps to the west of the Sepulchre is the chapel of the Copts, held by them ever since the sixteenth century, but very unpretentious in comparison with some of the chapels of other sects. Hard by is the chapel of the Syrians, or Jacobites, and here a candle is lighted to enable the visitor to see his way through a narrow passage to a rocky chamber, where are two tombs, said to be those of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. From the existence of this rocky chamber and of these tombs Dean Stanley argues as follows:-“The traditional names of Joseph and Nicodemus are probably valueless, but the existence of these sepulchres proves almost to a certainty that at some period the site of the present church must have been outside the walls of the city, and lends considerable probability to the belief that the rocky excavation, which perhaps exists in part still, and certainly once existed entire within the marble casing of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, was at any rate a really ancient tomb, and not, as is often rashly asserted, a modern structure intended to imitate it.” Coming back to the Rotunda, we next see the Chapel of the Resurrection, belonging to the Latins, with slabs of marble indicating the spots where Jesus stood when He said, “Woman, why weepest thou ?” and where she stood when she, “supposing Him to be the gardener,” said, “Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him and I will take Him away.” Ascending three steps we reach the Chapel of the Apparition, where, according to a fourteenth-century legend, Jesus again appeared to His mother after His resurrection.

* Curzon, “Monasteries of the Levant."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

marks the spot where it is said the Cross was planted in the rock; and two other holes, each five feet from that in which the Cross of Christ was planted, are said to be the site of the crosses of the two thieves, that of the penitent thief being on the right hand. Silver lamps burn ceaselessly, and pilgrims kneel adoringly, and are allowed to thrust their hands into the socket where the Cross of the Saviour was planted. About four or five feet from this spot is the Rent in the Rock said to have been made at the time of the Crucifixion, and reaching to the centre of the earth. The rent is covered over with a brass slide and a grating, but when these are pushed aside a cleft is seen about eight inches deep.

The chapel adjoining to Golgotha is where Christ is said to bave been nailed to the Cross. It belongs to the Latins, as does also the Chapel of St. Mary, where it is alleged the mother of our Lord stood with the disciple John at the time of the Crucifixion. The adornments of this chapel are of the richest and most profuse description.

Such are the main features of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the joint property of the Greeks, Latins, Armenians, and Copts. It would be tedious to tell of the many minor “sacred localities" in the church, such as the Tomb of Adam and Eve, the Tomb of Melchizedek, &c.; nor would it be possible to attempt a description of the endless services of the various churches held in these holy places. It may be mentioned, however, that the different sects take their turn in making processions and worshipping at the various shrines, and the fact that the Latin Calendar differs by some days from the Greek is a matter of great convenience in avoiding unseemly collisions. It may also be noted that some of the places held in great veneration by some sects are lightly esteemed by others; for example, the Chapel of St. Longinus belongs to the Greeks, who do homage there, but the Latins ignore the tradition, and so pass it by when making their processions.

[graphic]

THE VIA DOLOROSA.

The traditional Via Dolorosa, the route by which our Lord is said to have borne His cross to Golgotha, is a narrow, ill-paved, dirty street, winding in and out by ruined walls and rickety buildings. There are picturesque spots here and there, and invariably scenes of interest may be witnessed when devout pilgrims are making their religious tour along this Street of Pain, or Way of the Cross; but in itself there is little to inspire reverential feeling, sacrifice, Abraham brought his son Isaac as an offering, and the Ark of the Covenant stood. The circular hole is believed by some to be the place through which the blood of the sacrifices poured, and was carried, by way of the brook Kidron, outside the city.

A flight of eleven steps on the south-east of the rock leads to the famous cavern which has been, and will be, the battle-ground of controversialists. In this cavern, tradition says, Araunah and his sons, when they saw the destroying angel, hid themselves through fear. The Mohammedans say that when their Prophet ascended to heaven on El-Burak, the rock wanted to follow him, and started for that purpose, but the angel Gabriel held it down, and in doing so left the impress of his fingers, which may be seen to this day. They affirm that the rock is still suspended in the air, but has been walled

[graphic][merged small]

up, as pious pilgrims were afraid to pass under it—in proof of which assertion they tap the walls, which send forth a hollow sound.

One of the strangest theories, but one which had many supporters, was that put forth by Mr. Fergusson—that this cave is none other than the Sepulchre of our Lord. Against this theory there are many convincing objections.

The extreme length of the Harâm area from north to south is something under 1,600 feet-nothing like twice the extent of the Palace of Westminster, little more than two and a half times that of Trafalgar Square. As nearly as possible midway stands the Dome of the Rock, covering the mysterious cavity which, according to the theory of Mr. Fergusson, is the actual Sepulchre of our Lord. Now 600 feet is the narrowest limit assigned, on any hypothesis, to the area of the Temple, with its court and precincts. It follows that the Sepulchre must have been distant less than 200 feet from the northern wall of the Temple. Not much beyond a stone's-throw from the Holy of holies itself, in the very heart of the busiest and most sacred portion of the city, we are, according to this theory, to imagine " the place Golgotha,” where malefactors were publicly put to death, for

« PreviousContinue »