Monday, December 26, 2011

Mystery Photo 14: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- Some interesting history!

     Yes you are correct! This is the entrance that most tourists use to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem.
     This ancient church is a combination of chapels that were united under one roof over time. Originally on this site was reported to have been a Temple to Aphrodite possibly erected by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to try to blot out all commemoration of the site by Christians due to his hatred of Christianity as a religion. The first edifice built on this site for Christianity was built by Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century. It contained chapels that would mark the site of the Crucifixion (Golgotha), the site where Jesus body was taken down from the cross, where his body was prepared for burial, and also the site of the Garden Tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea. There is also a site that supposedly contained the skull of Adam as that is the legendary site of the Resurrection. The Aedicule is the internal structure that houses the Place of Burial of Jesus and therefore of his Resurrection.
     The location of all of these Holy Sites in Christianity are contested by various denominations. So whether these are the exact sites or not is uncertain, though some archaeological evidence does seem to suggest this was the tomb. Others denominations celebrate the site of Golgotha to be elsewhere. However, it is clear that the outer walls of the Old City of Jerusalem have changed several times over the centuries. The current walls are Crusader walls and probably do enclose areas that were outside the city in the 1st century AD.
      There was fire which burned portions of the Church during the 7th century. The early Muslim rulers protected the church as a Christian site, but in the 11the century the Church was ordered to be completely destroyed by the Fatimid caliph Al Hakim. Reportedly the church was hacked to bedrock, although portions were preserved by the overlying rubble. Later in that same century, Christendom sent the Crusades to rescue the Christian sites in Jerusalem and Palestine and it was rebuilt.    
     There are intricate rules for who is responsible for various sections and chapels of the Church. The largest control belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Armenian Church. But also the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church retain some responsibility and right to some altars and/or chapels inside. The roof, windows and doors are regarded as common ground. But frequent disagreements arise requiring the Israeli police to come in to break up fistfights or to keep the peace between these various Christian fractions.
      In 2002, a Coptic monk who was guarding his small section on the roof, moved his chair in order to seek out some shade. The Ethiopians took offense at this action, regarding it as a hostile act and started a fight. Eleven people were admitted to the hospital as a result of this fracas. In 2004, a Franciscan left a door open and the Orthodox church regarded this as disrespectful and started a brawl over this. Similarly as recently as 2008 the Israeli police were called to break up an altercation. As a result of the hot contestation of every action in and around the Church, there remains a ladder sitting on a ledge over this main door of the Church. The windows and sill are regarded as common ground and no one has responsibility for upkeep. Likewise all fractions are afraid to set foot on this ledge over the main door for fear of how some other faction may regard such an action, so a wooden ladder has sat there at least 150 years. It is visible in this photo of the entrance and is visible on every photo taken of this area since 1853.
       Ah, the interesting history that religion creates.

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