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VARIOUS RELIGIOUS SERVICES.
church there is a small grating with a hole in the centre, in which was lying a long stick with a silver knob on the end, not unlike a footman's cane. Here were a few Frank and Maronite devotees, who, after rattling the stick about for some seconds in the hole, in order that it might become endowed with peculiar virtue and carry out a good share of the holy influence within, pulled it out and kissed it most devoutly. Within this grating, I was informed, was a piece of the real and genuine pillar of scourging, although I had been shown but a few minutes before another pillar of the same character in the vaults below, and a third is exhibited at Rome.
The Latins, or Roman Catholics, have a fine organ in their place of worship, and chant their service in very good time. The Greeks use no instrumental music in their religious worship, but make up for that defect by the most discordant nasal singing I ever heard, each vieing with his neighbour, and braying with a forty-nose power that would be really deafening by itself, were it not overcome by the noise that is produced by the Armenians, beating copper drums about the size of boilers. There are so few Copts in the place, that the sounds which they produce amount to little more than occasional whines. Hours were consumed in visiting all the different chapels, shrines, and sacred spots under the roof of this building, the bare enumeration of which would be as wearisome and disgusting to my readers as the scenes I witnessed were to myself. There was, however, one remarkable object which I cannot omit to mention. In that portion of the gallery allotted to the Franks, we were pointed out a full-length portrait of the king of the French, lately sent by him as a decoration to the Holy Sepulchre !
The first evening that we visited the church it was densely crowded, and when the different processions were going their rounds through the building, and during the performance of the religious ceremonies, our attention was so occupied by the multitude of objects presented to our notice, that there was little time for reflection ; but when we returned to the hall of the sepulchre, after having seen all the curiosities of the place, we found the crowd so much diminished, that we were enabled more minutely to observe what was going forward, and also to see some of the effects which the whole scene was calculated to produce.
Several young Egyptian soldiers had collected round the door
DESECRATION OF THE TOMB.
of the Holy Sepulchre, and were acting in a most disgraceful and indecent manner, pushing each other, and running in and out of the tomb by way of amusement. I confess that I felt, in common with my companions, at this moment some of the spirit of the Crusaders rise within me, and was half inclined to inflict summary chastisement on the infidel and wanton intruders. Yet, on considering the matter, I saw that the conduct of these ignorant people was not to be wondered at, when I reflected that they had just been relieved from keeping guard at the outer door, where they had been stationed for the purpose of preserving order among the Christians, whose reverence for this spot should produce decorum of conduct; yet they daily witness acts of violence and desecration among the very priests themselves. Alas! but too often is this very sepulchre not only the scene of deceit and extortion, but frequently of confusion, strife, and actual bloodshed. About a fortnight previous to our visit to Jerusalem, an altercation took place within the walls of the actual sepulchre—what is considered the most holy place-between a Greek and an Armenian priest for precedency; high words were followed by heavy blows, a furious scuffle ensued, and the white marble covering of what those men believe to be the grave of the Prince of Peace was stained with the blood of persons calling themselves his ministers, professing to teach his doctrine, and to walk in his footsteps ! Both of these priests were instantly conducted before the Kadee, who fined their respective convents severely for this violation of the public peace; for the Kadees and other officials are always glad of an opportunity of inflicting a heavy fine on the convents for the misconduct of any of their members.
With the recollection of similar acts, and with the scene such as I have described passing around me, I could not avoid asking myself, as I stood at the door of the sepulchre, is this the object for which a continent rose in arms, nations sent forth the flower of their population, monarchs deserted their thrones and kingdoms, whole countries rushed forward to the battle-field at the beck of an ignorant and fanatic monk, and thousands upon thousands shed their blood, and converted the plains and valleys of Palestine into an Aceldama; when war, famine, pestilence, and destruction, so long desolated a large portion of the world ? Many as were the engrossing topics that rushed upon my recollection, and many as were the striking objects around me, my thoughts still
wandered to the preaching of the hermit, when he roused the warriors of Europe to arms, and led that rabble horde of sixty thousand, of all ages and all sexes, across the plains of Hungary and Bulgaria, who, abandoning their homes, and throwing aside the peaceful instruments of husbandry, ran forward, seized with that unaccountable fanaticism which the eloquence of Peter infused into their half-civilized minds. I thought too of the orders of saintly warriors and chivalrous churchmen, the Hospitallers and Templars, that were instituted in this land, for the purpose of guarding this sacred spot, which became not only the object of the pilgrim's veneration, but the very nursing mother of chivalry.
The view from the gallery of the building is most exciting, and on looking down upon the moving mass of human beings beneath, my mind was forcibly carried back to the scene which the court of Solomon's temple must have presented when the different tribes and nations who, from various parts of the world, came up to worship in Jerusalem, were assembled within its sacred walls. I scarcely knew on what object to rest my eye, so strange and varied was the appearance and costume of the crowd assembled beneath. The diversity of language, the flaunting of the silken banners that slowly moved to and fro from the top of the sepulchral dome, the gaudy paintings of the Greeks, the waving of censers, and the perfume of incense—the crowds of devoted pilgrims, some in attitudes of deep emotion, round each sacred spot; the turbaned Greek; the high-capt Persian ; the shaggy coat of the Muscovite, or the Siberian ; the long beard and dark, downcast visage of the despised Copt; the rich dresses of the different ecclesiastics ; the mitred abbot, the venerable patriarch, and the cord-girt friar, shall never fade from my memory. But when to these I add the scenes that took place upon some of the succeeding days that are considered more important and sacred, when the devotees joined in full chorus, though, to speak correctly, it was any thing but chorus or harmony, the effect was indescribable. Then, when the organ of the Latins was in full play, and the measured chant of their hymns rose from the vaults beneath ; with the loud nasal twanging of the Greeks; the drums and timbrels of the Armenians ; the low, plaintive murmuring of the Copts; the groans of the devout pilgrims, that issued forth from Calvary; the glimmering of the thousand lamps and tapers; the long lines of the different processions ; and the “ bustling busy
hum” that at intervals came from the court without, as some of the pilgrims quaffed their sherbet, or cheapened beads and rosaries, formed a scene that beggars all description. But even at those moments when the din and clamour of this scene, which resembled the confusion of tongues at Babel, was loudest, there was one that, like a death-bell, ever rung in my ears—a sound which, eighteen centuries before, every spot in that vicinity must have heard ; a sound at which the very rocks were rent, and the earth did quake; which burst asunder the narrow confines of the tomb, and called into life the mouldering ashes of the saint ; a sound the most appalling that ever fell on human ear; a sound at which all nature, animate and inanimate, was moved to send forth one universal groan of anguish; that sound was the “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani.” If I closed my eyes amidst this scene, it was but to picture in my mind the bleeding sacrifice—the weeping motherthe supporting disciple—the intreating fellow-sufferer on the cross
—the gaunt form of the Roman soldier—the wagging head of the reviling Jew—and the riven rocks: opening sepulchres—the rent veil of the temple, and mid-day darkness, appeared, in all their reality, to my imagination.
As the forms, the ceremonies, and processions, that take place in this church, have been described by many other travellers, I shall not occupy time in repeating what I suppose my readers generally know. There is, however, one scene connected with the grand climacteric of credulity and superstition, and which is now the principal magnet that attracts the Greek and Armenian pilgrims to Jerusalem, that I cannot omit mentioning. On Easter eve all the Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem, and many of the Mohammadans also, assemble in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, to witness the ceremony of what is termed the Holy Fire. On Good Friday, after the usual masses and processions have been concluded, the Greek patriarch and the Armenian bishop enter the pavilion of the sepulchre, the outer door of which is immediately closed upon them. The dignitaries remain locked in all night, waiting for the miraculous fire, which they assert is sent down to them from heaven. At length, on Saturday night, the wished-for light is seen, and a flame appears at the oval aperture in the outer chamber, or cenotaph, which I before described. In order to increase the delusion practised upon the devotees, in former times a dove was let loose from the cupola of the tomb, at
the moment the sacred fire appeared, to represent the Holy Ghost ! This latter part of the farce, if so mild a term can be applied to so impious a mockery, has been discontinued for some years past. Each of the pilgrims carries with him a torch, and, as soon as the flame is perceived, a rush is made to light the torches at the sacred fire ; and, as no person is allowed to ignite his flambeau at that of his neighbour, the greatest uproar and confusion prevails. It seems that those that are soonest lighted possess the greatest virtue, and on that account large sums are sometimes paid for the privilege of the first ignition. The torches are then extinguished, carried home by the pilgrims, and preserved for burning round their bodies after death. .
An eye-witness has thus described it to me. “Numbers of the pilgrims pass Friday night in the church of the Holy Sepulchre ; a clear course is kept about the sepulchre, round which bodies of Greeks and Armenians walk in procession, and frequently meeting, a contest ensues as to which party shall give way to the other ; words and often blows follow, so that blood is generally spilled in this contest, which is only ended by the Egyptian (now Turkish) guard interfering and separating the combatants. About twelve o'clock on Saturday night the Greek patriarch and Armenian bishop again appear heading processions of their own denominations with banners flying, incense waving, and chanting services in honour of the occasion. After several rounds of the sepulchre, these two (the patriarch and bishop) stop at the door, which, from the time they came out in the morning, had remained sealed, and commence a stripping process by no means reverent; every article of dress is taken off except drawers, to prove to the people that they take no composition or means for producing the fire in with them, the seal of the sepulchre is then broken by the guard and they enter, the doors closing immediately after them. One may now see the dense crowd thronging to the outlets for the fire, but of late, paths are kept on each side to the doors by dint of incessant flogging with koorbags ; and men are stationed at the fire holes with lanterns, which they light at the fire as soon as it appears, and then rush with it through the various avenues kept clear for them to the side doors, the galleries, and the different passages, thus affording it to those who could not at first get near enough. Besides this, bunches of candles may be