John L. (John Lawson) Stoddard.

John L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) online

. (page 6 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 12)
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sacred edifice. For several minutes we could hardly distin-
guish our sur-
roundings, but
presently per-
ceived that we
were standing
on a marble
pavement part-
ly covered with
straw matting.
We seemed to
be in the foyer
of an amphi-
theatre. On
either side of us

was a curving wall, upheld by marble columns. Occasionally
a ray of light, through stained glass windows near the roof,
revealed some glittering mosaics or a sculptured capital.
"Where did these columns come from?" we inquired.
"Some of them, doubtless, are relics of the various temples
reared here by the Hebrews and their Roman conquerors,"
was the reply.

We slowly made our way along the serpentine corridor,
and gradually understood the singular construction of the
edifice. It is built in two concentric circles; the outer wall
of the structure being one, and a corresponding circular
screen the other; while, in the centre, just beneath the
mighty dome, is what? A precious shrine? By no means.
Some noble work of art? Not at all. What then? A
bare, rough rock, fifty-six feet in length and forty feet in
breadth, without a particle of decoration on its surface.


* ' 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 founda-
tion 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 re-
ceptacles for all
the sacrificial
blood that
flowed in great profusion from the Hebrew Temple. Accord-
ingly, 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 Abra-
ham, David, Solomon, and Elijah knelt upon the rock to
Mohammed also prayed here, and with such earnest-
ness that when he
ascended thence to
Heaven, the rock,
it is related, started
to follow him, and
was only held back
by the Angel Ga-
briel, whose finger-
prints are now ex-
hibited in the stone.
The Moslems,
however, claim that
the rock, uplifted
thus, never returned
to its original posi-
tion, 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 disap-
peared, 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.



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 fagade which does not in the least sug-
gest 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. Accord-
ingly, 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 pre-
pare 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 influ-
ence of those events in Christ's
life which occurred somewhere
upon this rocky platform of
Jerusalem, should not be less-
ened because of the supersti-
tion of a portion of His fol-

The Church of the Holy
Sepulchre is not so much a
church, as a sacred exposition

A GUARD. ..... T , r

building. Its enormous roof

covers a multitude of altars, chapels, stairways, caves and
natural elevations; and under this one canopy, as if miracu-
lously concentrated into a small area, are gathered almost all
the places mentioned in the Bible, which could by any pos-
sibility be located in Jerusalem. The "Holy Sites" are
owned by various Christian sects, who hate each other cor-
dially; 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, espe-
cially 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 conduct-
ing a procession round the Holy Sepulchre. It missed the
leader and struck only a deacon ; but, though the mark at-
tained 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 pre-
serve 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 care-
fully measured
it with a string,
amid repeated

"Why does
he do that?"
we queried.

"He is meas-
uring 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


5 6


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 impres-
sions, 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.



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 Chris-
tian 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.
jjjj 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.




In another part of the church is the Chapel of the Cruci-
fixion, where one beholds what is alleged to be the very Rock
of Calvary. In this is shown (at present bordered by a rim
of gold) the rent made in its surface by the earthquake that

occurred at the time
of the Crucifixion.
Nay, more than this,
one can look down
into the very hole in
which the Cross is
said to have been
placed !

. Not far from here
we saw the chapel
said to contain the
grave of our first
parent, . Adam .
Every reader will
recall the tear which
Mark Twain here
dropped in memory
of our common
ancestor; and to a
rational mind nothing could seem more absurd than locat-
ing the grave of Adam near the site of Calvary. But we
must bear in mind that, to a large proportion of mankind,
only "seeing is believing." For fifteen hundred years the
majority of pilgrims to the Holy Land, coming from the
steppes of Russia, from the mountains of Syria, from
Egypt, and even from Abyssinia, expected and demanded
to see all the localities mentioned in the Bible. This
demand inevitably created the supply, in order to satisfy
those who probably needed some such tangible souvenirs
to help them to appreciate and understand the life of Him




whom they were taught to reverence. Inspired by intense
religious zeal, the early pilgrims and Crusaders must have
gone about Jerusalem intoxicated with their own enthusiasm,
and utterly undirected by a critical spirit of investigation.
Hence, as years rolled by, the influence of tradition and
antiquity gave to these places a sanctity which it is now
almost impossible to disturb.

The tomb of Adam is the property of the Greeks, who are
so proud of it that it is somewhat surprising that their dis-
comfited rivals have not produced the grave of Mother Eve!
As an instance of the sectarian jealousy that prevails here, it
may be stated that the Greek Christians, in 1808, actually
destroyed the authentic monuments of the Crusaders, God-
frey de Bouillon and King
Baldwin I, for the sole
reason that, if left here,
the Latin Church, through
some technicality, would
claim the site. There is
little doubt, moreover, that
one of the causes of the
Crimean War was the con-
tentions of the Christian
sects in Palestine Russia
supporting the Greek
Church, and France defend-
ing the Latins.

But of all places in this
famous building, the most
revered is the Holy Sepul-
chre. It is a little chapel, built of highly-colored lime-
stone, twenty-six feet in length by eighteen feet in breadth.
Though it has frequently fallen into ruin and been rebuilt
(the present structure dates only from the year 1808), the




site which it still covers has not changed for fifteen hundred
years. One gazes on it, therefore, with the deepest interest,
for (genuine or not) no spot on earth has so profoundly
influenced the fate of Christian nations. It brought about
one of the most important events of the
Middle Ages the Crusades; and for its
possession and defense the best and bravest
blood in Christendom was freely shed.
Other than Christian blood has also
flowed in its vicinity. For on the
1 5th of July, 1099, the victorious
Crusaders, having finally captured
Jerusalem, put to death most
of the Turkish population, and
then approached the Holy
Sepulchre barefooted and sing-
ing hymns of praise. As we
drew near it, a line of pil-
grims stood in front of us;
another line formed quickly in
our rear all eagerly awaiting
the moment when their turn would come to pass within.
Several men, as well as women, were weeping and moaning
at this realization of a life-long dream. At last my turn
came, and with a feeling of awe, never experienced before or
since, I stepped alone across the threshold. I found myself
at first in a little vestibule, ablaze with gilded lamps. Before
me was a piece of rock encased in marble. It is said to be
the stone which the angel rolled away from the mouth of the
sepulchre. Advancing still farther, I stood within a tiny,
marble-lined compartment, only seven feet long and six feet
wide. The air was heavy and oppressive, for hanging from
the ceiling, which I could easily touch with my hand, were
forty-three golden lamps, kept constantly burning. Of





these, thirteen belong to the Latins, thirteen to the Greeks,
thirteen to the Armenians, and four to the Copts. This
inner room is supposed to be the veritable rock-hewn tomb
of Jesus, and on a platform, two feet high and six feet long,
is a marble slab, which covers the rock on which the Sav-
iour's lifeless body is said to have reposed. It has been worn
as smooth as glass by the kisses of millions. I was allowed
to remain here but a moment, since others were impatient for
my place. Accordingly, returning to the body of the church,
I looked attentively at those who stood in line, seeking ad-
mission to the Sepulchre. Of course, among so many nation-
alities there is great diversity, but there were many pilgrims
whom I would rather not meet alone on a dark night.
There is a saying in the Orient that the worst Moslems are
the ones who have been in Mecca, and the worst Christians
those who have
seen Jerusalem.
Still another
proverb says :
"If thy neigh-
bor has made
one pilgrimage,
distrust him; if
he has made
two, make haste
to sell thy
house." We
can the more
readily believe
this when we
recall the scenes which take place around the Holy Sepulchre
at every Easter festival. For then the miracle of the "Holy
Fire," as it is called, may well make angels weep and all
intelligent Christians shudder with disgust. The Roman




Catholic and Armenian Christians discarded this function
three hundred years ago, denouncing it as a gross imposture;
but the Greek Church still maintains it.

During the entire day and night before Easter the im-
mense Church of the Holy Sepulchre is literally packed with
pilgrims. They stand there for hours without food or

drink, and gradually
work themselves into a
^ frenzy by shrieks and

howls, and a monoto-

r - **Si<* nous vvail ^ "Hada-Kii-

**** ulEa ba-Saiti-Na" "This is

the Tomb of the Lord."
Some of these enthu-
siasts have come thou-
sands of miles to obtain
the "sacred fire," and
are determined to do so
if it costs them their
lives. Such persons,
if they have not a good
position, climb up on the
shoulders of their weaker neighbors, and run on toward
the Sepulchre on the heads of others, descending finally into
the already compact mass in the midst of frightful confusion
and violence.

At length, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the Greek-
Patriarch goes within the Sepulchre. There is now a period
of breathless silence, almost appalling after all the pande-
monium that has prevailed. Presently, nobody knows exactly
why, it is rumored that the Holy Ghost has descended to
the Sepulchre in a tongue of flame. A moment more, and
four or five lighted torches are thrust out through the holes
which perforate the chapel-walls. Language fails to depict




the scene that follows. Ten thousand men immediately con-
tend like maniacs to get their tapers lighted. Twenty thou-
sand arms leap forward toward the torches of the priests, like
the leafless branches of a forest swayed by a tornado. Hys-
terical fanatics rush about, searing themselves with lighted
tapers, as a kind of penance. Many are trampled under foot,
and some are even crushed to death. On one occasion,
three hundred pilgrims perished in the church. In 1895,
until suppressed by the soldiers of the Sultan, two rival
Christian factions fought here desperately.

It is a painful thought that Turkish guards must be sta-
tioned here to check the rioting and fighting of Christians.
For, in their act of guardianship, they smile sarcastically at
the so-called followers of the Prince of Peace. If He should
once more appear upon Mount Zion, He would no doubt
rebuke these poor misguided worshipers, by whom, per-
haps, He would be murdered again, upon the site of His
reputed grave! "Such " says Dean Stanley, "is the Greek
Easter, the greatest moral argument against the identity of




the spot which it professes to honor. Considering the place,
the time, and the intention of the professed miracle, it is
probably the most offensive imposture to be found in the

The question which, above all others,
suggests itself to the visitor to the
Holy Sepulchre is, "Can we believe
that this is the real burial-place of
Jesus?" Sad as it is to think of such
continued and wide-spread delusion,
there is not, in the writer's opinion, any
satisfactory proof that Christ was either
crucified or buried within the precincts,
or indeed in the immediate neighbor-
hood, of this church. There is no
need to enumerate here the vexed
arguments for and against the
belief; but one thing can be made
quite clear in half-a-dozen sen-
tences. The Gospels state that
Christ was crucified and buried
outside the city walls. But look

from any eminence in Jerusalem and see how far in toward the
centre of the city stands the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Can we suppose that the boundary lines of this illustrious
capital in the period of its glory were narrower than they are
to-day, especially when the valleys which surround Jerusalem
leave it but one direction for expansive growth? Besides this,
the historical evidence in favor of the Holy Sepulchre is also
unsatisfactory. It is remarkable that no description of the
locality of the tomb of Jesus is given either by the Gospel
writers, or by St. Paul, who visited Jerusalem at least twice
after his conversion. Why was this? Undoubtedly because
to them the death and burial of Christ were insignificant facts




compared with His resurrection. The early Christians all be-
lieved that Jesus was to return before their generation passed
away. They therefore gave no thought to the poor
place wherein their Master's body had reposed for three
days. They could have no conception of the centuries
to come, in which man's reverence for sacred sites would
lead him to seek out this sepulchre. Enough for them
that Christ had risen from the grave and was to reappear at
any moment in
the clouds of

Yet, while re-
flecting on the
millions who
have come to
Palestine to see
what they be-
lieved to be the
actual sepulchre
of the Son of
God, we are forced to ask ourselves Can it be possible
that a delusion has exerted such a mighty influence in
human history? But it was not the actual sepulchre
(genuine or false) which revolutionized the minds of men,
it was the idea behind it. The fact that Moslems held this land
to the exclusion of Christ's followers, is what aroused the
Christian world to take up arms, and led to Palestine the
legions of the Cross. The one essential thing was the idea;
for, as Napoleon truly said, "Imagination rules the world."

In the opinion of many students and travelers including
the writer of these pages, the probable site of Calvary is a
remarkably formed cliff, a little beyond the Damascus Gate,
which from a distance bears a striking resemblance to a
death's-head, with natural caverns in the rock suggestive of



eyeless sockets. Since the outlines of this hillock are to-day
almost certainly what they were nineteen hundred years ago,
it would not be strange if it had then been popularly called
Golgotha, ' ' the place of a skull. ' ' There evidently was a place

so called, out-
side the city of
Jerusalem, and
the peculiar con-
formation of
this knoll would
justify the name
to-day. It must
always have
been outside the
walls, yet, from
its nearness to
the Damascus
Gate, it would
have been con-
tiguous to one
of the great thoroughfares to Jerusalem, so that "the
passers by " could easily have "railed on him." Moreover,
this skull-shaped cliff was then, as it is now, in a very con-
spicuous position; and the Saviour's form upon the Cross
would have been plainly visible to the "people who stood
beholding," and to the "women looking on afar off."

Of all the hills that rise around Jerusalem beyond the
deep ravines, which form almost a circle about the city, the
most profoundly interesting is, of course, the Mount of
Olives. Passing from the uncertainties of the Holy Sepul-
chre, one looks on this with genuine satisfaction, for of its
authenticity there can be no doubt. The eighteen centuries
which have come and gone since Jesus was wont to retire to
its slopes at eventide for prayer and contemplation, can have




made little difference in its form. It is true, the palm-trees
that once flourished here, from which the exultant mul-
titude plucked branches to adorn the path of Christ on
His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, have disappeared, and
there are now few olive groves to justify its name; but it is
nevertheless the very hill associated with so many thrilling
scenes in the life of Christ. Probably, too, the general
direction of the road that crosses it is the same as when the
Saviour trod it on His way to Bethany. Moreover, at the
foot of Olivet is a little area, enclosed in whitewashed walls.
This is the reputed Garden of Gethsemane. The traveler
may enter it, for courteous Franciscan monks are always in
attendance. My first impression here was one of disappoint-
ment. The modern-looking pathways lined with flowers, the
plants, and carefully trimmed hedges, what had these to do
with the historic Garden of Gethsemane? The conservatory
in the corner, also,
where the monks
cultivate their choi-
cest flowers, seemed
painfully unsuited to
a place whose princi-
pal characteristics
were undoubtedly
retirement and
purely natural sur-
roundings. But the
monks maintain that
to cultivate flowers
here is certainly no
sin, especially as every visitor buys some; while the fine olive-
oil yielded .by the trees, and the numerous rosaries manu-
factured from the olive-stones, are also sold at a high price.
One must live, they argue, even upon the slopes of Olivet.




Within this
enclosure there
are a number of
old olive-trees,
which are said
to be the very
ones within
whose shadow
Jesus knelt
in spiritual an-
guish. But this
is quite impos-

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Online LibraryJohn L. (John Lawson) StoddardJohn L. Stoddard's lectures : illustrated and embellished with views of the world's famous places and people, being the identical discourses delivered during the past eighteen years under the title of the Stoddard lectures (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 12)