Tomb of Jesus, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

jesus crypt church holy sepulchre jerusalemThe Church of the Holy Sepulchre was probably my favorite place in Jerusalem. It's rather anarchic design is the result of several churches being built here since the 4th Century. This was usually done by adding on or superseding, or just simply piling on one of the earlier versions. Add to the architectural anarchy that the site is essentially controlled by at least three Christian and a few secular entities, and you've got some glorious chaos.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses the purported tomb of Jesus, and the spot of his resurrection. That part of the church is under the control of the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, who also is the “owner” of the adjacent large Byzantine chapel. This control is manifested by a black-clad Orthodox priest who stands outside the entrance/exit to the crypt to manage the line of pilgrims. Every minute or so, he bends his head into the tiny doorway and slaps his hand on the wall and says in several languages, “Hurry up! Move along.”

Because the lines to get into the crypt can get very long, and because the space of the crypt itself is the approximate dimensions of a mid-sized sedan, the priest is probably necessary. In the interior altar of the crypt, you can fit a maximum of six people if they're standing, but only three if some decide to kneel and place their foreheads on the stone. Then, the people who entered first have to figure out how to exit without stepping on the legs which now entirely fill the floor.

Then, too, there are the people who are now standing in the anteroom space waiting to get into the actual crypt. And because many of them are impatient, they stand right in the tiny doorway, making it impossible to get out. There needs to be a sign there, like the ones in the Madrid Metro which says: “Let the people out first.”

All this, though, is probably not as funny as the story of the immovable ladder of the Church. A few centuries ago, a workman left a ladder behind after he'd climbed up to wash a window or something like that. Because the various administrators of the Church couldn't agree on whose ladder it was, it's been left in the same spot since at least 1757.

It's a religious problem which is pretty much unsurmountable. Like most of the religious problems of Jerusalem.

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