Jerusalem the Easter city

 

In the same way that Bethlehem is the Christmas town, Jerusalem is for Christians the city of Holy Week and Easter.  The story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection, as originally told in the New Testament, and the later subject of writing, films, and many factual and fictional TV programmes, takes place in and around Jerusalem.

The  Gospels of Mark and Luke both say that it was around the town of Bethany that Jesus’ disciples  obtained the donkey which would carry him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday,  and Matthew and Mark both agree that it was in Bethany that Jesus spent that Sunday night. The town features earlier in the Gospels as the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and Jesus’ raising of Lazurus from the death is commemorated by a church designed by the Italian Antonio Barluzzi.

 

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The mural of Jesus raising Lazarus to life inside the Church of St Lazarus in Bethany.

 

Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus was also staying in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper when he was anointed with ointment by a woman, thus foreshadowing his death. John also records this event but says the anointing was carried out by Mary at their home in Bethany.  

Bethany is only a short distance from Jerusalem (four kilometres or about two and a half miles) but the construction of the separation wall has made a visit much harder for the modern pilgrim.

 

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Part of the separation wall outside Bethlehem.

 

En route to Jerusalem, according to Luke, Jesus wept over the city’s future fate. The location where this took place is marked by the Dominus Flevit church, another of Barluzzi’s several churches in the region.

 

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Through the window of the Dominus Flevit church can be the seen the Moslem Dome of the Rock on the Mount of Olives.

 

After the Last Supper on Holy Thursday,  Jesus went to pray quietly at the garden at Gethsemane, but this is now one of the least quiet pilgrim sites in modern Jerusalem. 

 

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This view of the Church of All Nations at Gethsemane gives a hint of its popularity. The name of this Barluzzi church apparently relates to its international funding but might also hint at its varied architectural influences.

 

There is still a small garden where some olive trees may date from the time of Jesus. One more modern one has significance as having been planted by Pope Paul VI in 1964, the first pope since the Middle Ages to visit the Holy Land.

 

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The one olive tree in Gethsemane whose provenance is clear and identified: the sign says that it was planted in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

 

When Jesus was arrested, he was first taken to the Jewish high priest Caiphas. According to tradition, the site of Caiphas’ palace is below the present-day church of St Peter in Gallicantu. There are dungeons where early Christians were imprisoned and where, according to tradition, Jesus was also detained before being taken to Pontius Pilate.

 

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The church of St Peter in Gallicantu. The name means “cock crow” in Latin and refers to Peter’s denial of Jesus while the latter was under arrest in the early hours of Good Friday.

 

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Information about the dungeons below St Peter in Gallicantu.

 

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The view into the dungeons.

 

Outside the church, there is a set of  steps, called the Maccabee Steps, which certainly date from two thousand years ago, and along which, tradition says, Jesus walked as he was transferred from the custody of Caiphas to Pilate.

 

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The Maccabee Steps.

 

The Gospels recount how, on Good Friday, after having been condemned to death by Pilate,  Jesus carried the cross on which he was to be crucified through the streets of Jerusalem to the place of execution on Mount Calvary. Although the exact route of Jesus’ journey is not known, tradition has dictated the particular route of the Via Dolorosa through today’s narrow, busy cobbled streets. 

 

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Crosses left by some pilgrim groups at the end of the Via Dolorosa.

 

The whole area of what is believed to be the site of Mount Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, and  the tomb nearby in which he was buried, is actually now enclosed within the 12th century Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

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The chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which marks the site of Calvary.

 

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The rear view of the shrine which marks the site of Jesus’ tomb.

 

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The entrance to the shrine, built in this form by the Orthodox church in 1810. A long queue invariably precedes any visit to the shrine.

 

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In the courtyard outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

Reference :

Baldwin, David (2007)   The Holy Land : A Pilgrim’s Companion   London : Catholic Truth Society

 

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