« AnteriorContinuar »
There is no spot in Palestine so delightful for the stranger's residence as the Sea of Galilee: the surrounding scenery is on one side so savage and desolate, as to be a fit region for the possessed with demons, for the dwellers amid the tombs: on the other, it is the peaceful and chosen scene of the glad sounds of the gospel. On the following morning, ere the sun had risen, we pursued our way through a territory unrelieved by a single shrub or blade of verdure; where, for many leagues, no trace of a habitation was visible. Its savageness struck us the more forcibly, after the beautiful plain of Gennesaret we had so lately left. But the path grew more exciting as we drew nearer the mountains of Gilboa: there was a solitary grandeur and stern sublimity in the scene, on which the traveller could not help pausing to gaze, even had it waked no vivid associations of the times of old. Utter solitude was on every side: the mountains were broken in some parts into naked precipices and pointed summits: they were not dwelling-places for man, save for the wandering shepherd, whose search for pasturage must often have been vain. Amidst these solitudes was fought the battle in which Saul and his sons were slain; and the curse of David on the fatal scene seems to have been fulfilled, that there "might be no rain or dew on the mountains of Gilboa, where the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away." ENTRANCE TO THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE. The anxious hope of the traveller to behold the place of the Sepulchre, urges him thither without delay, even within the few hours after he has entered Jerusalem. In this he is not wise, and should rather wait till the first tumultuous feelings are calmed, till curiosity has fastened on other and minor objects—on hill, vale, and precipice around. Let him wait till Jerusalem has grown, in some measure, familiar to his eye,— till he has seen the sun rise and set on her waste and ruinous places, on her memorials of unutterable glory and despair; where the hand of the Lord was visible in alternate vengeance and love. He who would wish his visit to the Sepulchre to be indelible, like a sweet and appealing voice, heard at times through his future life, should come there at midnight, with the spirit of the world hushed within him, and even its memories yielded to the memory of his Lord. If he desires a communion of worship, to weep with them that weep, let him join, at morn, noon, or eve, the bands of pilgrims, and kneel amidst a multitude of the repentant and redeemed. But if he would be alone on Calvary— and earth has no loneliness so purifying and sublime—let him be there when the city is buried in sleep, and there is no witness near. This edifice, of vast dimensions, massive, and with little claim to architectural beauty, is surmounted by two lofty domes, and is believed to contain not only the Holy Sepulchre, but many other memorable places. It likewise encloses separate places of worship for several denominations of Christians, and numerous cells for devotees; many of whom confine themselves for longer or shorter periods within the sacred walls, receiving their food through a small aperture in the door. The entrance, originally handsome, and ornamented with clustered pillars, consisted of two gothic doorways, one of which has been walled up. Square bas-reliefs placed over each, now much defaced, represent the offerings of the Wise Men, and Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The key of the door is in the custody of the governor of the town, and, under the old administration, produced a large revenue from the sums levied on all who entered; but this and similar imposts are now discontinued by the Egyptian government. For strangers or others, desirous to visit the Sepulchre, the key is readily obtained from the governor, whose messengers patiently wait on a divan near the door, regaling themselves with pipes, coffee, or chess, and thankfully accepting any voluntary gratuity that may be given on coming out. Not far within the entrance, illuminated with lamps and lofty tapers, is the "stone of anointing," on which the body of our Saviour is believed to have been prepared for burial. Numerous worshippers, as seen in the Plate, are gathered around it .
In this edifice are the Greek and Armenian churches; the former is ornamented in a rich and costly style, and covered in many parts with gold: in the Armenian church a Persian carpet covers the floor, where comfort, and even luxury, is blended with devotion. During the feast of Easter, daily and hourly excitements are kept up by the faith of the pilgrims, and the address of the monks, who multiply miraculous places like the widow's cruse of oil. Not only is the very spot pointed out where the cross was fixed, but even where it was discovered, dug up, and restored to the world. Also the spot where the head of Adam was discovered. The fathers who inhabit the Franciscan monastery appear to feel the monotony and dreariness of their life; they are relieved by occasional arrivals of brethren from Italy, when a few of them have a chance of returning home. Inclosed within strong walls and gates, in dirty and unwholesome streets, and visited at times with heavy exactions—it is not easy to maintain the enthusiasm of piety, or even an interest in these hallowed scenes, from year to year, and day to day. Was their home, like that of the prophets of old, on the side of the lake or stream, on the inspiring plain or mountain—the wheels of life would drive less heavily, and their aspects be less pallid and joyless. In the bazaar and shops of the city, the air is faint and close; the traders sit indolently in the recess behind their piles of merchandise. Noon comes and goes; the cry of the muezzin passes over the dull city, calling to prayer. All the living associations of Jerusalem are sadly at war with the feelings and imagination of the European, whether traveller or monk. Among the ceremonies observed at the feast of Easter, that of washing the pilgrims feet was one of the most curious—each seated in a chair, in the chapel of the convent, with a small white cap on his head. The superior, having exchanged the dirty rope with which he is generally girded, for one of silk, kneels down on a small footstool of white silk: he was aided by two or three monks, who knelt on the cold pavement on each side of him. Mumblings and blessings were muttered all the time, in a low tone, by the superior's lips, and in a higher cadence by those of the assistants, the pilgrims keeping up a kind of recitative in all possible keys. Most of these men had a sunburnt, worn, and anxious appearance, as if they felt the enterprise in which they were engaged