My next three days of drawing in Jerusalem were at three of
the most important holy sites for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. These three
religions were all born out of Jerusalem, and throughout the past several
thousand years, each of them has claimed and reclaimed holy sites all
throughout the city. Mosques, churches, synagogues, and religious pilgrimage
sites of all kinds were built right on top of each other as the ruling powers
changed. For instance, above the tomb of Biblical Hebrew leader King David is
the hall of Jesus’ Last Supper, and above that is the dome and crescent of the
E-Nebi Daud mosque, from Ottoman rule (which is now drawing controversy with
its possible conversion into a synagogue).
My first stop in my own pilgrimage around Jerusalem was to
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites in Christianity,
where Jesus is said to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected. Christian
pilgrims from all over the world come to follow the road of the Stations of the
Cross through Jerusalem, to reenact Jesus’ final hours, culminating in a visit
to the Church.
The church is dark and filled with echoes. Smoke from
incense and candles hangs in the air, and people wander through the various
shrines of each denomination of Catholicism present in the winding church. Up a narrow staircase to the right of the entrance is
Golgotha, where it is believed that Jesus was crucified. From up over the entrance, you can see the streams of
pilgrims entering and winding their way through the maze-like church.
Here, pilgrims wait in
line to enter a small shrine on their knees, underneath a flat silver Jesus on
the cross, to pray. Nearby, dozens of candles are lit in prayer, and collected
by the priests as they basins fill up.
What interested me most was the different ways in which
people worshipped upon entering the church. The most popular was the Stone of
Anointing, where it is believed that Jesus was laid and prepared for burial.
Pilgrims wipe the stone with oil, kiss it, put their forehead to it, lay
their hands on it, and anoint themselves with the oil.
Some delicately touched the surface with their fingertips, while another was using her kerchief to wipe up every bit of oil, dabbing between and mopping up in between the cracks. Another woman I saw took about a dozen
souvenirs she had bought and rubbed each one on the stone to bring back
home. There were all different styles, but everyone seemed very intent on making sure they came away with a bit of
the holiness rubbed off on them.
Around the church, people stop in front of various places and portraits,
crossing themselves, kneeling to pray, and often reciting prayers from their iPhones.
Olive-wood crosses are ubiquitous and often you can see
people deep in thought simply smiling and stroking the cross.
There is a solemnity and compulsiveness to the way people
proceed through the space, like they are moved by magnets.
Orthodox priests glide through the halls like big chess
pieces, sometimes chanting and wafting smoke out of lanterns.
In the central rotunda is the Aedicule, which houses the
Tomb of Jesus. Long lines form outside the tiny entrance for people to go
inside and pray, as outside pilgrims light candles.
Unlike the Stone of Anointing, where people seek to take something away, the glowing lines of candles around the shrines were all left behind as burning prayers. The site of the church itself felt secondary to the constant flow of the exchange, with each person taking something with them and leaving something behind.
more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: