Place Of Appearance To The Shepherds.
"What!" we exclaim, "is it to guard a mass of unhewn stone that this magnificent temple has been reared; that these rich columns stand in silent reverence; and that its glittering mosaics and lamps of variously-colored glass recall Aladdin's fabled cave?' Incredible as it seems, such is the fact. For this rock is the natural summit of the hill called Mount Moriah, - a real and tangible relic of the great Jerusalem. It was revered when Abraham and David knelt on it in prayer, when the Ark of the Covenant rested on its summit, and when the Son of Man drove from His Father's house, which then surmounted it, those who had made the place a den of thieves. There seems to be little doubt that when the Jews erected here their wonderful temple, they chose this rock as the foundation of its sacred altar. Beneath it are enormous rock-hewn cisterns, from forty to sixty feet deep, which served as reservoirs of water, or as receptacles for all the sacrificial blood that flowed in great profusion from the Hebrew Temple. Accordingly, few objects in the world are deemed so sacred as this rock; and few indeed have such good reason to be reverenced. Unfortunately, however, a mass of crude Mohammedan traditions are connected with it. Thus we had pointed out to us upon its surface the very spots where Abraham, David, Solomon, and Elijah knelt upon the rock to pray. Mohammed also prayed here, and with such earnestness that when he ascended thence to Heaven, the rock, it is related, started to follow him, and was only held back by the Angel Gabriel, whose fingerprints are now exhibited in the stone. The Moslems, however, claim that the rock, uplifted thus, never returned to its original position, and is even now suspended in the air! There is, in fact, beneath it a small cave, known as the Sepulchre of Solomon. Into the rock above this, Mohammed is said to have driven some nails, which gradually work through the stone and drop into the tomb below. When all the nails shall have disappeared, the Prophet will return to announce the end of the world. Three nails are still intact, but we were told that a fourth is on its way downward. The Moslem attendant, therefore, warns all pilgrims to step lightly, lest they shake a nail through, and thus hasten the day of judgment.
Under The Rock.
Entrance To Church Of The Holy Sepulchre.
As the Dome of the Rock is the building which Moslems deem most sacred in Jerusalem, so the one most reverenced by Christians is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, erected by the Emperor Constantine, about three hundred years after the Crucifixion. It has no architectural beauty. Beyond an open space, where petty traders vend their rosaries and trinkets with discordant voices in almost every language known to man, is a facade which does not in the least suggest the entrance to a religious shrine. There were originally two portals here, but one has been walled up, thus making the building unsymmetrical. Three marble columns flank the open door on either side. One of them has a crack in it; and it is believed that from this rift, on the Judgment Day, will leap forth the fire that is to destroy the world. Accordingly, the riven shaft has been for centuries kissed by pious pilgrims, till now its surface is as smooth as glass. It is well to observe this at the outset, for every traveler should prepare himself for what he is to encounter in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, before he sets foot beyond its threshold. If he is satisfied that what he is to see is genuine, then let him enter the church filled with enthusiasm, reverence and joy. If, on the contrary, he feels that much of it is the result of ignorance and fraud, he should not lose his temper, but should pass in, philosophically and quietly, as to a study of humanity, remembering, above all, that the hallowing influence of those events in Christ's life which occurred somewhere upon this rocky platform of Jerusalem, should not be lessened because of the superstition of a portion of His followers.