We are soon at the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, built over a temple to Aphrodite on the site where Jesus is believed to have been crucified. (Thanks again to the Emperor Constantine and his mom, St. Helena.) The church is a mix of Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian elements. The final stations of the cross of the Via Dolorosa are in this church. (The Via Dolorosa starts in the Islamic Quarter, and is a stone paved narrow street like all the others. Don’t know what I was expecting – a dirt road? A hill? Something outside the center of the city, I guess.) Outside is a chapel that marks where Jesus was stripped of his clothes.
We queued up to enter the tomb, a very dark, small space filled with gold, where you had to bend or kneel to enter. Only five people were allowed in at a time, and there was a priest standing outside keeping the line moving.
Here are some other images from the church. The walls are marked with small crosses by the pilgrims who traveled here.
I have to say that this church had lots of gold and glitter, but it did not feel like a holy place to me. Sometimes, all the tourists jostling with their Selfie Sticks just make me sad, although I am no better, trying to capture images for this blog. It was hard to imagine what these objects had to do with the Crucifixion. We actually left the church, bought a book (from a Muslim shopkeeper) to explain what we were seeing, then went back in and walked through again. There was no place to sit and contemplate, which I guess I missed.
We walked from the Christian quarter to the Jewish Quarter, to visit the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. We had to go through a metal detector and security check to enter. The sign said that God’s presence is always here.
The area has separate entrances for men and women. There were a lot more women praying today.
A sign asked that heads be covered appropriately. I tied on my trusty headscarf, then realized the sign was for the men! A box of paper kippas was provided so the men could cover their heads. The women were bare-headed, reading from little books and rocking in prayer. Here you could sit or stand or touch the wall as the spirit moved you.
The Garden Tomb is a site run by Evangelical Anglicans, that offers a different theory on where Jesus was crucified and buried. The land is thought to be the garden owned by Joseph of Arimathea. It sits within sight of the Hill of the Skull, thought to be Golgatha. The message was emphasized that it matters not where Jesus died, but WHY. There was a tomb carved from a cave, and a wine press. It felt more like a holy place to me. A peaceful, contemplative experience. I’m very glad we visited here.
A long day with many images to ponder.