תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors][merged small]

in one instance only I observed a pediment with some rude floral ornaments that indicated its Jewish architecture. One of these outer halls was thirty feet long, but the generality of the tombs were twelve feet long by eight or nine high. It is remarkable ihat none of these sepulchral grottos look toward the city. From these outer halls a small low door, generally two feet high, by one foot ten inches wide, leads either into an ante-chamber, or directly into the crypt in which the body was placed. In some instances there were also doors in the side of the portico or outer hall; and each of these doors was originally closed by a slab that fitted into a groove cut in the rock around the sides of the aperture. The floors of the chambers are about a foot or eighteen inches below the level of the outer doors. In order to give my readers some conception of the form of these tombs, and the appearance which they at present exhibit, I subjoin the following description of one of the largest of them which we carefully explored.

Having lighted our candles, we proceeded to examine the cavern under the direction of Elias, the baker belonging to the convent, who accompanied us as guide ; and though a halfwitted creature, one of the most enthusiastic explorers of sepulchres that I have ever met. Internally, this tomb consisted of a series of chambers, entered by small doors leading from one to the other, some being below and others above the level of the outer ball.


The accompanying wood-cut gives an accurate representation of the appearance which a portion of one of the chambers in the interior of this tomb at present exhibits.



Each apartment formed a square, each of its sides being nine feet six inches in length and seven feet in height. Three of the sides were excavated with two rows of apertures or places for bodies, not unlike pigeon-holes, or the Columbariæ of the Romans, the tiers being separated by a projecting ledge. Each aperture was thirty inches high, seventeen wide, and six feet nine inches in depth, slightly arched at top, and having a square groove hewn in the rock round the entrance, in all probability for the purpose of receiving a door similar to that in the external opening.

The chamber I have taken this drawing from, contained thirteen such apertures, and the entire tomb no less than fiftyeight. But the most extraordinary and astonishing circumstance connected with these excavations, is the wonderful skill and architectural precision with which they have been all hewn out of the solid rock; the time, labour, and expense employed in constructing them must have been enormous. All the parts of these soroi are in due proportion, and their sides do not deviate an inch from the proper direction of each ; and this, as well as the manner in which they were excavated, is the more difficult to understand, for the workman, in constructing each of these apertures, had barely sufficient room for his own body. The labour was only equalled by the ingenuity shown in its performance.

Having contrived to squeeze myself into one of these holes, in order to examine its farthest extremity, and to find whether it emitted a hollow sound, my light went out, and I stuck fast in the place, the narrowness of which rendered it impossible for me to use my arms in order to extricate myself. Here I remained for some time, certainly not in the most enviable position, until my friend the baker returning to see what had caused my delay, and having enjoyed a longer laugh at my ridiculous position than I was by any means disposed to join in, pulled me out by the feet. The bodies must have been put into these holes without any coffins.

I do not think that these sepulchres belonged to any particular person ; for fifty-eight cryptæ are rather too many for any family mausoleum. Could conjecture as to the mode in which these chambers and vast excavations were formed be admitted, I would say that, from the appearance presented by the hewn surface, the rock was first roughly cut with an instrument in the form of a pick with a flattened point, and then smoothed by some finegrained tool, like a comb-pointed chisel. A similar appearance is

[ocr errors][merged small]

exhibited on some of the rocks, out of which are formed the sepulchral chambers in Egypt.

Some others of these tombs consist of simple low arched grottos of an oblong form, leading from the ante-chambers. There are also others similar to those at Telmessus, Laodicea, and Tortosa, having ledges at the sides ; and again, others having niches for the bodies, representing the segment of a dome, like to those in the royal sepulchres. It appears extraordinary that this wonderful cemetery has not been accurately described by previous travellers; and it is to be regretted that Clarke did not visit it, as his ingenuity and extensive knowledge of sepulchral architecture would, in all probability, have thrown much light upon this place; whose date, by whom, or for what purpose erected, it is now difficult to determine. Sandys and Pococke briefly notice it, under the name of the “ Sepulchres of the Prophets.” In some of the Corinthian tombs at Petra, there are pigeon-holes of a similar form and construction. There are no inscriptions of any kind on these Tombs of the Judges, nor any vestiges of human remains whatever ; indeed so new and perfect do some of them appear, that they look as if they had been constructed but yesterday.

[graphic][ocr errors]

On our return to the city, we entered the Valley of Jehoshaphat at its northern extremity; the northern elevation of Mount Olivet rising to the left, from the brow of which the city presents the appearance shown in the foregoing representation.



This deep gorge or ravine that lies between the city and the mount is one of the most memorable localities about Jerusalem ; and the associations connected with it are of no ordinary interest.

It might with propriety be termed the valley of tombs ; for the lower part of it, together with that of Hinnom, is one immense catacomb, containing the remains of the inhabitants of the city, from its first erection to the present time. Its sides are in some places so precipitous that they can only be ascended in a zig-zag direction. The brook Kedron winds through its centre; which, however, at the time of our visit was completely dry, its course being only marked by a rough, pebbly, stream-way; though in winter, or after heavy rains, it is a rapid torrent, only passable by bridges thrown across it. One of these, supposed to be that over which our Lord was conducted on the morning of his betrayal, leads to the Mount of Olives, and is placed opposite St. Stephen's gate ; and on the intervening ground there is a well, beside which is pointed out the spot on which the proto-martyr suffered. This bridge conducts the visitor towards the garden of the passion, and the summit of the ascension. The other bridge is situated lower down in the valley, beside the pillar of Absalom, and leads to Bethany and Jericho.

The gloom and stillness that in general rests over this “valley of the shadow of death,” is well calculated to make a deep impression on the minds of the Hebrews and Mooslims; and to strengthen the opinions which they entertain, that within it is to take place the final judgment; here also may the Christian speculate on the probability of its connexion with the battle of Armageddon.

Traversing it from north to south, the first object that attracts the attention of the visitor is a remarkable vault upon the lefthand side, named by tradition as the burial-place of the Virgin Mary.* This tomb resembles in its external appearance a large ice-house, and is entered by a small door, with a pointed gothic arch, supported by clustered pillars. In the square court in front were squatted some of the most importunate, nay, I might almost say violent beggars I ever encountered. These blear

* The first notice we have of this tomb, is that given by Adamnanus, an Irish monk, about the end of the seventh century.

[ocr errors][merged small]

eyed, filthy crones, clad in rags, and covered with vermin, set upon us the moment we made our appearance, yelling out, “a Hadgie ! a Hadgie! Buckshese, a Hadgie!” in voices suited to the Furies. A piastre given to one was but the signal for a general attack. They came rushing upon us like so many harpies; and some were so bold and determined as to lay hold of us, in order to obtain their demands. Had my late lamented friend, C. 0., the graphic sketcher of the beggars of an Irish village, been there, I am sure he would have resigned the claims of the western islanders to those mendicants that swarm round the Virgin's Tomb.

A flight of forty-eight broad steps conducted us to a subterranean chapel, then in possession of the Greeks, and lighted by numerous small lamps suspended from the ceiling, whose dim, sickly light shed a most funereal gloom over the place. We were led by one of the priests into a small, low stone chamber, somewhat larger than that of the Holy Sepulchre, and placed behind the principal altar of the chapel. The walls of this little crypt were hung with tawdry, faded tapestry; and beneath a white marble slab, like the table of an altar, we were shown what is said to be the tomb of Mary. Other similar crypts were pointed out to us, as the sepulchres of Joseph, Anna, and Caiaphas. This tomb is a place of undoubted antiquity; but at what period it was constructed, or what its original use, the learned have not yet been able to determine. The opinion of Pococke, that it may have been the sepulchre of the Empress Melisendis, is ingenious, but unsupported by proof.

Leaving the Virgin's tomb, our conductor pointed out to us the spot on which it is said the Saviour dropt bloody sweat ! This is a circular cave, surrounded by a wall about breast high, and covered at top by an iron grating, lest human foot should desecrate the sacred spot. A subterranean passage leads into its interior. This station is in possession of the Latins; but the simple-hearted curate seemed ashamed of the story he repeated to us; and seeing a smile of scepticism in our faces, he concluded his narrative with—“but it is mere tradition.”

We now commenced the ascent of the Mount of Olives. What feelings and associations does not that name inspire ! Hallowed from the earliest record of this wonderful and mysterious place, of all other spots about Jerusalem the Mount of

« הקודםהמשך »