Roof Of The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not so much a church, as a sacred exposition building. Its enormous roof covers a multitude of altars, chapels, stairways, caves and natural elevations; and under this one canopy, as if miraculously concentrated into a small area, are gathered almost all the places mentioned in the Bible, which could by any possibility be located in Jerusalem. The "Holy Sites" are owned by various Christian sects, who hate each other cordially; so much so, indeed, that officers, appointed by the Turkish Government, are always present to protect the property, and to prevent the owners from flying at one another's throats. This is, alas! no exaggeration, for deeds of bloodshed and violence have frequently occurred here, especially during the Easter celebrations. Not long ago, during Holy Week, a priest of the Greek Church hurled a bottle of ink at the head of the Franciscan Superior who was conducting a procession round the Holy Sepulchre. It missed the leader and struck only a deacon; but, though the mark attained was a less shining one, it created a disturbance which Turkish soldiers were obliged to quell.
After crossing the threshold of this edifice, and passing by the Moslem guards who are always stationed here to preserve order, the first object we beheld was an altar built against the wall. Above it hung an almost indistinguishable painting. Before it was a line of gilded lamps, and under these a smooth, white stone. "What is this?" we inquired in a whisper of our guide. "It is the Stone of Unction," he replied, "on which the body of Jesus was placed by Nico-demus to be anointed for burial." While we were looking at this slab, a Russian pilgrim crept up on his knees and carefully measured it with a string, amid repeated kisses.
"Why does he do that?" we queried.
"He is measuring it," was the reply, "in order to have his winding-sheet made of precisely the same dimensions." A few steps from this is the spot where the Mother of Jesus stood while the body of Christ was being anointed. Close by this was another shrine, known as the "Chapel of the Parted Raiment." It is supposed to mark the precise spot where the garments of Jesus were by lot distributed among the Roman soldiers. It is the property of the Armenians, and has been recognized as sacred for six hundred years. Near this are other chapels, denoting, respectively, the places where Christ was crowned with thorns, where He was scourged, where He was nailed to the Cross, where He appeared to Mary Magdalene after His Resurrection, and where the Roman Centurion stood, during the Crucifixion; and. finally, we were shown a stone in which are two impressions, said to have been made by the Saviour's wounded feet. We next descended a stairway, thirty feet in length, which led to the Chapel of St. Helena. This is the property of the Abyssinian Christians, and is revered by all the Christian sects; for here, it is said, Helena, the mother of Constantine, sat while directing the excavations which resulted in the finding of the Cross of Christ.
The Stone Of Unction.
Chapel Of Scourging.
From this chapel we descended fifteen feet further, to reach what is said to be the identical place where, after persistent digging, the true Cross was brought to light, though it had been buried for three hundred years. The Empress Helena plays an important part in the history of Christianity. She was not merely the mother of the first Christian Emperor; she must also be called the mother of most of the church traditions which have had their origin in Palestine. Thus, in this particular spot, it is stated that she found all three of the crosses - those upon which hung the two thieves, as well as that of Christ. The problem was to know which was the sacred one. To settle this, they were all taken to the bedside of a devout woman who was very ill. When she beheld the first cross she became a raving maniac. They therefore tried the second one.
Immediately she went into fearful spasms, and six strong men could hardly hold her. Naturally they were afraid to bring in the third cross. Still, as she seemed about to die, they agreed that the third could do no more than put her out of misery. Accordingly, they brought it in, and at once the afflicted woman was completely restored. The cross which cured her, therefore, was proclaimed to be the Cross of Christ.