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should have one of the maids of Bethlehem to sit for the Madonna.
Bethlehem is a straggling village, with one broad and principal street; the houses have not domed-roofs like those of Jerusalem and Ramlah, but are built, for the most part, of clay and bricks, and every house is provided with an apiary, the beehives of which are constructed of a series of earthen pots, ranged on the house tops in the same manner as the wooden ones are in Asia Minor. There are said to be about 3,000 inhabitants in this place, the greater part of whom are Arab Christians; for Ibrahim Basha, finding that the Mooslims were continually at war with the Christians, had lately expelled the former, leaving the latter in peaceable possession of the village.
The inhabitants are nearly all engaged in the manufacture of those articles of sacred merchandize that supply the bazaars and warehouses of the Holy City; and no sooner was our party espied than we were beset by a multitude of bead hawkers and relic sellers, shouting aloud the respective holy powers and miraculous virtues of their different wares. Some of the articles wrought in mother-of-pearl are carved with considerable skill; more than we could expect to find in that distant land, and the workmanship of some would not disgrace the artists of our own country. One of these manufacturers, whose workshop I visited, informed me, that when a boy he had been sent by his parents to Spain, to be instructed in the trade.
In the streets several Bedawee blacksmiths were at work. The rude and simple character of their temporary forges attracted
of the burden, be it ever so light, the back must be straight; and more pressure is taken off those parts of it called, in technical language, the intervertebral substance, than when walking or remaining without any such appendage. Were a similar kind of exercise more used, and were our young ladies permitted to breathe a little more fresh air, we should see fewer of those deformities, even of a minor character, than at present unhappily prevail amongst the sex; and are more frequently, perhaps, the effect of inattention and improper education than of any other cause whatever. If these obvious principles were attended to, we should have less occasion for the single hour of powerful kalesthenics, resorted to, to make up for the many, many hours of the day, spent in acquiring mechanical and perhaps useless accomplishments.
THE FRANK CONVENT.
our attention. The bellows which they employed, was a most primitive instrument of its kind, being nothing more than an inflated goatskin bag, such as we read of being used by the early Greeks, and which in this instance was blown by the smith's wife pressing its sides together and then drawing them asunder to admit the air.
At the farthest extremity of the town is the Frank convent, at whose low massive door we alighted, and were well received by the fraternity. We were first conducted into the cathedral of St. Helena, a handsome, spacious hall, consisting of a central nave, and aisles separated from each other by rows of tall Corinthian pillars of grey marble, but much defaced by dirt and the remains of gaudy paintings. As there is no ceiling, the lofty roof is exposed to view; and, although composed of the last of the cedars of Lebanon, it is still in a state of good preservation, and affords a fine specimen of the architecture of its day. The chapel at the upper end of the hall is now separated from it by a wall; as it was considered too expensive to keep up the whole ; and the centre has a most cold, lonely, and desolate appearance. In this cathedral Baldwin the First was crowned king of Jerusalem, and it is the most chaste, 'architectural building in Palestine. The chapel belonging to this part of the building scarcely deserves our notice; but, the attendant monk placing in the right hand of each of us a large lighted wax taper, led us to the subterranean grotto, called the “ Chapel of the Nativity.”
A flight of steps conducted us into an oblong apartment, in which a small low crypt, said to be hewn out of the solid rock, was exhibited to us as the actual place of the Nativity. On one side of it is an altar with a silver plate on the floor, like to that at Calvary, and said to cover the spot on which the birth of the Saviour took place. Opposite to this, a niche in the wall contains a very handsome, polished white marble trough, like a sarcophagus, which is shown as the very manger in which the infant Jesus was laid !! This trough is on a level with the floor of the apartment, which is somewhat lower than that of the outer chamber. The niche in which it is placed contains a very good Spanish painting, representing the event. Another place in this little vault is shown as that in which the Magi presented their gifts, and is also ornamented by a good painting. A number of silver lamps, suspended from the roof, are kept continually burn
ing; the walls are ornamented with blue satin and brocade, which are now in rather a faded and torn condition, but patched with tawdry furniture-calico.
Can this be, in reality, the stable in which the infant Jesus was brought forth—and this the manger in which he was laid ? I am constrained to say, that I do not think they are : for the places shown as such are neither in accordance with the simple narrative of Scripture, nor at all analagous to the appearance that inns or public karavansaries at present exhibit throughout the East ; and it must be remembered, that in the never-changing manners and customs of this country, we have at this very day the same usages and habits that existed from the very earliest period that history records. The opinions set forth and the statements for and against its identity are easily disposed of; nor would I have introduced the subject, except for the arguments brought forward by Dr. E. D. Clarke, who by the way has written most learnedly upon the place, though he acknowledges that he did not visit it; and whose arguments, if they were valid, would do away with all those that he had previously urged against the Holy Sepulchre-nay, they complete the only evidence upon that subject that he seems to ridiculė. The passage runs thus :“The tradition respecting the Cave of the Nativity seems so well aụthenticated, as hardly to admit of dispute. Having been always held in veneration, the oratory established there by the first Christians attracted the notice and indignation of the Heathens so early as the time of Adrian, who ordered it to be demolished, and the place to be set apart for the rites of Adonis. This happened in the second century, and at a period in Adrian's life when the Cave of the Nativity was as well known in Bethlehem as the circumstance to which it owed its celebrity.”. He then appeals to the authority of St. Jerome, and says that “upon this subject there does not seem to be the slightest ground for scepticism.”* This is strange language from a writer who, but a few pages farther back, totally overlooks the fact of this same Adrian erecting statues of Venus and Jupiter over the sepulchre of Calvary; and which likewise prove that they were subjects of
* Travels in Greece, Egypt, and the Holy Land. By E. D. Clarke, LL.D. vol. iv. Svo. edition, p. 415, 6.
present manding like woman,',
interest, if not of adoration, to the Christians of Jerusalem in the second century; and also in one who styles the Empress Helena “an infatuated old woman,” and the Holy Sepulchre “a dusty fabric, standing like a huge pepper-box in the centre of the present modern church.”
It is stated by the monks, and all previous travellers have given insertion to the legend, that the whole of this grotto is hewn out of the solid rock. This, from actual inspection, I can positively deny, for part of the tapestry having fallen from the roof I was enabled, much to the annoyance of the attendant friar, to examine it, and found it arched with masonry. The chief objection to this place is its total dissimilarity to all other inns or resting places. The answer to this objection, that “it is by no means uncommon in these countries to use similar souterrains as habitations for both man and beast,"'* cannot have any weight, or be taken as a proof of the identity of the manger at Bethlehem ; for the places that are thus alluded to were never formed for inns, but were originally tombs, which, having been rifled of their contents, became in turn resting places for occasional travellers, and their sarcophagi or stone troughs were converted into mangers. The catacombs of Alexandria, the tombs of Sackara, and numberless other excavations could be adduced to prove this position, and no traveller has yet recorded a single instance in any country of a stable having been formed by excavating the rock beneath the surface ; this one, in particular, is so small that it could barely have held a donkey, which, in order to reach it, must have been led down a steep descent under ground.
In order to determine this point I paid particular attention to the karavansaries of the different eastern towns we visited. These places usually consist of a large square enclosure, surrounded by a range of buildings, the upper stories of which are appropriated to the accommodation of travellers, and the lower, and the court-yard itself for their beasts. It was in the latter of these, in all probability, the holy family had to take up their abode, the former being already so completely occupied as to afford them no room. To suppose that the place called the
* Three Weeks in Palestine, p. 58.
grotto of the nativity bears any similitude to the stable of an eastern khan, as Pococke and others would lead us to believe, is truly preposterous. *
From the grotto we were led through a long winding passage to visit the tombs and shrines of sundry saints and saintesses, all good people in their way, no doubt, but too numerous to mention. On our return to the sacristy of the Latins we were shown a relic of priceless worth, encased in a splendid frame and decorated with gold and jewels. This is a relic the very oldest that superstition has yet pawned upon the world, and one that dates its origin from the nativity itself. It is the hand of one of the innocents who were slain by order of the tetrarch, and whose bodies were all thrown into a deep pit which was pointed out to us beside the chapel that contains the manger! This musty looking little article is considered of great value. There is, however, one slight objection to it. It is quite true that, owing to certain diseases, or to the effect of embalming, or any other drying process, a hand would keep for a much longer period than tradition assigns to this, but this unfortunately preserves that plumpness peculiar to infancy which such means could not possibly retain. This fact may prevent the scientific at least from enumerating it among the wonders of Bethlehem for the future. It is, however, an exceedingly good representation, and does considerable credit to the artist who made it.
Having procured some refreshments, not the least valuable part of which was some excellent wine,+ we remounted our
• The Modern Traveller contains many sensible remarks in confirmation of this view, and Mr. Buckingham was also of this opinion. Pococke gives a description of the ovens at Bethlehem that really appears so very like this grotto of the nativity that I cannot forbear quoting the passage. “In Bethlehem," says he, “I took particular notice of their ovens, which are sunk down in the ground, and have an arch turned over them; there is a descent of some steps to the door by which they enter into them."
+ The wine of Bethlehem is the very finest that we tasted in this part of the Mediterranean. It is not unlike Marsala ; and the monks, who were mostly Italians, had too good a taste to spoil it with anise-seed or resin. No doubt can exist but that the grape would grow in great luxuriance in Palestine; and the side of the hill on which Bethlehem stands is a fine situation for it.