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One of the first objects that caught our attention on entering the church, was a large oblong slab of variegated yellow marble, raised a few inches from the floor, and having an immense candle burning at each corner. Our cicerone, Padre Benjamin, very gravely informed us, that this was the stone on which our Lord was anointed, and here, on Good Friday, the priests go through a similar ceremony with an effigy of the Saviour. At this spot the daily station of the pilgrim commences, for, on approaching it, he kneels, and not only kisses it, but touches it with his forehead, and then with both cheeks. This is the usual form of salutation at all the holy places. Whence this slab was procured, I cannot possibly discover, as it is totally different from any of the marbles found in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem ; however, tradition has sanctified it, and so we pass on without questioning its antiquity.
A few yards to the right of this anointing-stone, a flight of eighteen steps cut out of the solid rock, led us to a square platform, surrounded by a dome or cupola, distinct from, and of a smaller size than that covering the Holy Sepulchre and the rest of the church. This platform, which is mostly covered with marble and ornamented work, we are told is Calvary. Seventeen paces from the top of the stairs brought us to a low white marble altar, towards which the pilgrims were rushing as quickly as they could on their knees. The attendant priest, perceiving that we were strangers and Europeans, very politely interfered in our behalf. He caught hold of a person who happened to delay too long under the altar, and pulling him back, procured for us an immediate entrance into the aperture. Going down upon my knees, I entered the passage to the crypt beneath. The first thing that attracted my attention on reaching this place, was a large circular plate of embossed silver, fastened on a marble flag, and containing the marks of many precious stones and gems which had been formerly set upon it. In the centre of this plate there is an aperture, into which I sunk my arm, and at about the depth of a foot I found a square hole in the rock, where, it is said, the cross was placed on which our Lord was crucified. A few paces to the right of this spot, we were shown a silver grating which covers a cleft in the rock, which we were told was the exact spot where the rock was rent at the time of the crucifixion. We found no altars over the places where the other two crosses are said to have 410
THE PLACE OF THE CROSS.
been placed, as was stated to have been in existence there some years ago. I anxiously inquired after the skull of Adam, said to have been found here, but I believe that tale is now better known to the traveller and to the English reader, than to the monks of Jerusalem ; however, of this tradition I shall have occasion to speak in another place. This chapel is now in the hands of the Greeks, who have decorated it with their usual gaudy tinselled paintings. A number of ornamented lamps, suspended from the ceiling, shed a peculiar mellow and sombre light over the place. To the right of where the cross is said to have been fixed, the Latins have erected another altar, where, they say, he was nailed to the cross ; but very few of the pilgrims seemed to pay any reverence to this altar, which, like many other places of the same kind established in the vicinity of those which have been acknowledged as possessing greater antiquity, look like so many “ opposition shops.” The walls of this chapel were adorned with faded tapestry; and underneath the platform of rock is a small cript belonging to the Copts, and also a place for preparing coffee. In this chapel is shown a crack or fissure in the rock, corresponding to that in the apartment above; and the examination of it rather induces me to consider the place called Calvary as a portion of the original rock, squared and hewn down to its present form ; but I am at a loss to discover at what time, or under what circumstances, this place received the name of a hill or mount, as no scriptural evidence for such an appellation exists. The top of this plateau is fifteen feet above the floor of the adjoining church, and the bottom is thirty-five yards from the site of the Holy Sepulchre. Whatever may be the diversity of opinion as to the identity of this rock, a subject which I will discuss in another place, it was not, I confess, without feelings of deep emotion that I visited the so-called Calvary.
On many of my visits to this place, particularly at an early hour in the morning, when but comparatively few pilgrims were present, I was greatly struck with the sincere and devotional feeling exhibited by many who slowly and reverently approached the altar on their knees, with tears of sorrow running down their cheeks ; when sighs and stifled groans were the only sounds that broke the stillness of those moments, save the tinkle of the piaster as it fell into the money-tray of the attendant priest, who
EMOTION OF THE PILGRIMS.
alone, among the group, remained unmoved. At these early and tranquil hours, I have watched the aged and weatherbeaten pilgrim here bowed to the earth, and mothers prostrated around the place offering up prayers, directed, I doubt not, by the promptings of their hearts, and with silent tears, presenting before the altar their lovely little ones, whó gazed with mute astonishment and childish sympathy at the parent, but not venturing to break the silence or interrupt the solemnity of the scene by their innocent prattle. These were absorbing moments, and different from the scenes I witnessed during the more public and crowded hours, when hurry, bustle, and confusion, and the vast concourse of people rendered the approach to this place almost impossible.
I have frequently seen, when some of the pilgrims, possessed of more devotion or curiosity than the rest, remained under the altar longer than the usual time, that they were very unceremoniously reminded of their delay by the attendant priest, especially if they did not belong to his own church. I was particularly struck with the number of children brought by their parents to Jerusalem-it reminded me of the days when the Hebrews brought up their little ones to present and dedicate them to the Lord in the temple.
On our return from Calvary, we entered the large circular hall of the sepulchre. This part of the building is surrounded by a gallery supported on a colonnade of eighteen pillars, and surmounted by a vast dome. To the north of this hall is the Latin church, and to the east of it is the Greek chapel. A large curtain hangs before this chapel, which is by far the most highly decorated of any of the places of worship here. The Armenian church is situated in the gallery of the building. Beneath the centre of the dome is erected an oblong pavilion of grey and yellow marble carved in panels, which, at its southern end, is surmounted by a kind of lantern or open-work. cupola, decorated with wretched looking artificial flowers made of tin, and containing lamps that are lighted only on state occasions. Attached to the western extremity of this pavilion, is a small chapel belonging to the Copts. The entrance to the pavilion is raised a little above the rest of the floor, and is covered with a carpet, on which were seated numbers of beggars and decrepit
folk, demanding alms of the devout pilgrims. From the top of this pavilion, and attached to the entrance of the Greek church floated blue silk banners. This building contains the Holy Sepulchre, into which all the monks and pilgrims enter barefooted, but our party were not required to take off their shoes. The pavilion is divided into two apartments; the outer one was handsomely decorated with different coloured marbles and lighted by lamps suspended from the roof. This apartment, which corresponds with the usual antechamber of Eastern tombs, especially those in Judea, has oval apertures on each side opening into the church. These are for the purpose of transmitting the light during the performance of the mummery of the “holy fire.” In the centre stands a square stone, said to be that on which the angel sat when Mary came to visit the tomb. It is a piece of gray compact limestone, similar to that found in the vicinity of the city, and is supported by a pedestal not unlike that of a baptismal font. Opposite to this a low narrow door leads into the sepulchre, which was then so crammed with pilgrims, that for some minutes we found it impossible and unsafe to attempt an entrance. Could mirthful feelings have been indulged in such a place as this, the scene, which was ludicrous in the extreme, was well calculated to call them forth. Two pilgrims, perhaps a Greek and an Armenian, endeavouring to pass through the door together, and neither being disposed to yield in the holy struggle, they became jammed, and thus remained till both were forcibly ejected by some one from within, who had been himself, in turn, rudely thrust out by the Padre in attendance. Seeing a group of Franks waiting for admittance, some of the other visitors made way, and our attentive friend, the curate, soon pulled away the rest from about the door-way, crying out, “ Inglese, Inglese! Milordos Inglese !"
The sepulchre within is a square chamber, six feet nine inches every way; open at the top beneath the small cupola before mentioned, which here presented an open-work of marble of the most chaste and elegant workmanship. On the right-hand side, an oblong slab of bluish white marble, raised two feet above the floor, is supported by another upright one of a similar form. The upper horizontal flag was cracked across the centre in the fire of 1808, and it has been actually worn down by the kisses of the many
thousands of pilgrims who have visited this place for the last fifteen centuries.* Within this coating is said to be the actual soros or trough in which the body of the Saviour was laid, and to prevent its being chipped, carried off as relics, or kissed away, this marble was erected. This may, to some, appear strange and unnecessary; yet, it is related by a chronicler of the Crusades, that the Count Anjou, one of the first pilgrims who visited this shrine while it was in possession of the Mooslims, bit off and carried away a mouthful of the actual tomb without the infidels being aware of it! Above the tomb are suspended a number of small silver lamps of the most costly filigree work—the presents and offerings of the nobles and princes of the Christian world from a very early period. Besides these lamps, a great number of small wax tapers were placed round the walls; one of these was removed and given to each person who entered the chamber, and another was lighted in its place. Each of our party was presented with one of these tapers, and permitted to carry them away as relics of inestimable value. Flowers were occasionally scattered on the tomb, a few of which were afterwards given to those whose donations were of such an amount as gratified the wishes of the attendant priest, who sprinkled us plentifully with holy rose water on leaving the place. Our party of five just filled the space in this crypt unoccupied by the tomb. Although the top is evidently of modern construction, the sides of the door as well as the part above it are hewn out of the solid grey lime-stone rock, which is here distinctly seen.
From the sepulchre we were conducted round the different stations or holy places, which tradition and monkish ignorance have crowded within the walls of this building, such as the place where St. Helena stood to watch the excavations made to find the true cross; where Mary stood to watch the crucifixion ; and where Mary Magdalene stood when Jesus appeared to her in the form of the gardener. The latter spot is considered a place of peculiar sanctity, and the Latin fathers were then chanting round it and perfuming it with incense. In one of the side walls of the Latin
• Dr. Richardson supposed that this worn appearance of the marble was the effect of long exposure to the atmosphere; but no doubt can exist as to its being attributable to the lips of the millions that must have kissed it.