Thursday, 28 November 2013
Notwithstanding my recent post, Deborah proves a very useful pointer in this picture, which shows her looking through a grill into a cellar immediately east of the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the twin domes of which will be familiar from a number of earlier posts).
The same window is top left in this picture, and we are still looking in the same direction so the lower levels of the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre are somewhere beyond the wall we are facing. We are in a storeroom behind a workers' cafe.
Ignore the arch, wall and pillar which are the apparent main features of this picture, but which are later and are at right angles to the the purpose of this visit. Running from left to right across the room is the threshold of the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which extended much further east than the present church).
Here it is. Not the most inspiring site in the Holy Land, but an extraordinary survival of the church destroyed by the Persians at the beginning of the seventh century, and equally extraordinary to find it tucked away in this storeroom. The west end of the original church stood where the west end of the present church stands (obviously - this is the where the traditional site of Jesus' tomb is) but the original church had a courtyard east of this and then a cloistered atrium east of that - and this entrance line belongs to that atrium and is a threshold people like St Helena would have crossed.