Thursday, February 27, 2014

Blogging from the Holy Land, Part 6

We got out of the hotel early so that we could be some of the first at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We entered the Old City through the Lion's Gate, or St. Stephen's Gate, and marveled at how much the Old City looks like one would expect an Old City to look.  Except for the scooters, cars, and other little trucks that haul things.  There are lots of stairs, lots of little alleyways, and lots of places to shop.

Our first stop was St. Ann's Church, the traditional home of Mary's family.  It's run by the White Fathers and they even had a small seminary there.  We stopped to listen to the liturgy.
Then we moved on to the Pool of Bethesda, where John says that an angel stirred up the water once per year.  The first person to jump in when the water was stirred would have been healed.  It's history is outlined here, but it's interesting to note that the pool was originally part of the Antonia Fortress, built by Herod for the Roman Guard. It was a pagan place, yet Jesus came there to heal those who needed mercy.
When we left St. Ann's we went to the first two stops on the Via Dolorosa.  The first was the Chapel of Flagellation, where Jesus may have been beaten.  The two stops, the Chapel and Flagellation and the Chapel of Condemnation were in the exact spot of the Antonia Fortress (mentioned above) built in 35 BC by Herod in honor of Marc Antony.  Here's the Chapel of Flagellation:
And the inside of the Chapel of Condemnation:

We finally made it to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but not before lots of other people got in line.  The church is jointly (but not always cooperatively) run by five different groups:  Franciscans, Coptics, and three flavors of Orthodox.  They have such a history of arguing about the joint use of the church that in the 1500s Sultan Suleiman ruled that the Muslims would keep the keys to the church, which they still do to this day.

Helen, mother of Constantine, made it her duty to find out where the holy places in Jerusalem were.  It was she that decided that this particular place was the place where Jesus was crucified, anointed, and buried.  Eventually a church was built on top of these three places to protect them.

We started at the small chapel that holds the rock that supposedly marked the spot where Jesus' head was laid in the tomb.  It's been covered over with a large slab of marble.

 Then we moved on to the Rock of Calvary.  As with the birthplace of Christ, there's a hole in which you can stick your hand to touch the rock.
Finally, the rock where Jesus was anointed.  There were people taking things that they had purchased elsewhere and rubbing them on the rock for a blessing.  Not my thing, but quite lovely anyway.

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