25 March 2010

Adam, Eve, and the First Easter

Among the most venerated sites in all Christendom is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, reputed by many to be the place where the Redeemer was crucified and buried. Under an 1852 agreement called the Status Quo, the administration of each area of the Church is divided among several Christian communities. The sole exception is the main entrance. To avoid the possibility of sectarian quarrels, the key to this entrance has been under the care of two Muslim families since 1192. A close-up of one of the massive doors is shown above.

The site of the Church has a long and complex history. Following the Bar Kokhba revolt that ended in 135, the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and commenced a new building program for the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina. This move was seen by the fourth-century Christian Bishop Eusebius to be motivated by a desire to eradicate remains of the Holy City’s sacred sites. Eusebius claimed that a cave, reputed to be the location of the Savior’s tomb, was deliberately covered over by Hadrian with a pagan temple:
It was this very cave of the Savior that some godless and wicked people had planned to make invisible to mankind, thinking in their stupidity that they could in this way hide the truth. Indeed, with a great expenditure of effort they brought earth from somewhere outside and covered up the whole place, then leveled it, paved it, and so hid the divine cave somewhere down beneath a great quantity of soil. Then as though they had everything finished, above the ground they constructed a terrible and truly genuine tomb, one for souls, for dead idols, and built a gloomy sanctuary to the impure demon of Aphrodite; then they offered foul sacrifices there upon defiled and polluted altars. They reckoned there was one way alone and no other to bring their desires to realization, and that was to bury the Savior’s cave under such foul pollutions.
In about 325, Constantine, the first Roman Emperor favorable to Christianity, razed and re-excavated the site. The accounts of the Bordeaux Pilgrim (333) and Egeria (381-384) provide early firsthand perspectives from lay Christians about the progress of the building program, whose centerpiece became the edicule that covered over the cave where Jesus was thought to have been buried. The entire complex was destroyed in 1009, but rebuilt to reach more or less its current form by the mid-twelfth century. The photograph above shows Catholic clergy with lighted candles moving in a circle around the rectangular edicule, recalling the ancient form of the prayer circle...

Full text

No comments:

Post a Comment