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Palestine or the Holy Land by Michael Russell

Part 3 out of 6

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on the top of a rock, appears in the distance an ancient fortress called
the Castle of the Maccabees. It is conjectured that the author of the
Lamentations came into the world in the village which has retained his
name amid these mountains; so much is certain, at least, that the
melancholy of this desolate scene appears to pervade the compositions of
the prophet of sorrows.

The unvarying manners of the East exhibit to the view of the stranger, at
the present day, the same picture of rural innocence and simplicity which
might have met the eye of the mother of the Redeemer when she came into
this pastoral country to salute her cousin Elizabeth. Herds of goats, with
pendent ears, sheep with large tails, and asses which remind you, by their
beauty, of the onagra of Scripture, issue from the villages at the dawn of
day. Arab women are seen bringing grapes to dry in the vineyards; others
with their faces veiled, carrying pitchers of water on their heads, like
the daughters of Midian.

From the Valley of Jeremiah the traveller towards Zion descends into that
which bears the name of Turpentine, and is deeper and narrower than the
other. Here are observed some vineyards, and a few patches of doura. He
next arrives at the brook where the youthful David picked up the five
smooth stones, with one of which he slew the gigantic Goliath. Having
crossed the stream, he perceives the village of Heriet-Lefta on the bank
of another dry channel, which resembles a dusty road. El Bir_ appears in
the distance on the summit of a lofty hill on the way to Nablous, the
Shechem of the Israelites and the Neapolis of the Herods. He now pursues
his course through a desert, where wild fig-trees thinly scattered wave
their embrowned leaves in the southern breeze. The ground, which had
hitherto exhibited some verdure, becomes altogether bare; the sides of the
mountains, expanding themselves, assume at once an appearance of greater
grandeur and sterility. Presently all vegetation ceases; even the very
mosses disappear. The confused amphitheatre of the mountains is tinged
with a red and vivid colour. In this dreary region he keeps ascending a
whole hour to gain an elevated hill which he sees before him; after which
he proceeds during an equal space across a naked plain strewed with loose
stones. All at once, at the extremity of this plain, he perceives a line
of Gothic walls flanked with square towers, and the tops of a few
buildings peeping above them;--he beholds Jerusalem, once the joy of the
whole earth!

"I can now account," says M. Chateaubriand, "for the surprise expressed by
the crusaders and pilgrims at the first sight of Jerusalem, according to
the reports of historians and travellers. I can affirm that whoever has,
like me, had the patience to read nearly two hundred modern accounts of
the Holy Land; the Rabbinical compilations, and the passages in the
ancient writers respecting Judea, still knows nothing at all about it. I
paused with my eyes fixed on Jerusalem, measuring the height of its walls,
reviewing at once all the recollections of history from the patriarch
Abraham to Godfrey of Bouillon, reflecting on the total change
accomplished to the world by the mission of the Son of Man, and in vain
seeking that Temple, not one stone of which is left upon another. Were I
to live a thousand years, never should I forget that desert, which yet
seems to be pervaded by the greatness of Jehovah and the terrors of

On this occasion a camp of Turkish horse, with all the accompaniments of
oriental pomp, was pitched under the walls. The tents in general were
covered with black lambskins, while those belonging to persons of
distinction were formed of striped cloth. The horses, saddled and bridled,
were fastened to stakes. There were four pieces of horse-artillery, well
mounted on carriages, which appeared to be of English manufacture. These
fierce soldiers are stationed near the capital, as well for the purpose of
checking the savage Bedouins, who acknowledge no master, as for enforcing
the tribute demanded from all strangers who enter the holy city. The
recollections of the Mussulman, no less than those of the Christian,
inspire a reverential feeling for the town in which David dwelt; and
hence, although the European pilgrim be oppressed by the present laws of
Palestine, his motives are usually respected, and even praised.

The reader who has perused with attention some of the more recent works on
Palestine must have been struck with the diversity, and even the apparent
contradiction, which prevail in their descriptions of Jerusalem. According
to one, the magnificence of its buildings rivals the most splendid
edifices of modern times, while another could perceive nothing but filth
and ruins, surmounted by a gaudy mosque and a few glittering minarets. The
greater number, it must be acknowledged, have drawn from their own
imagination the tints in which they have been pleased to exhibit the
metropolis of Judea; trusting more to the impressions conveyed by the
brilliant delineations of poetry, than to a minute inspection of what they
might have seen with their own eyes.

Dr. Clarke, for example, has allowed his pen to be guided by the ardent
muse of Tasso, rather than by the cool observation of an unbiassed
traveller. "No sensation of fatigue or heat," says he, "could
counterbalance the eagerness and zeal which animated all our party in the
approach to Jerusalem; every individual pressed forward, hoping first to
announce the joyful intelligence of its appearance. We passed some
insignificant ruins, either of ancient buildings or of modern villages;
but had they been of more importance they would have excited little notice
at the time, so earnestly bent was every mind towards the main object of
interest and curiosity. At length, after about two hours had been passed
in this state of anxiety and suspense, ascending a hill towards the
south--Hagiopolis! exclaimed a Greek in the van of our cavalcade; and,
instantly throwing himself from his horse, was seen upon his knees,
bare-headed, facing the prospect he surveyed. Suddenly the sight burst
upon us all. The effect produced was that of total silence throughout the
whole company. Many of our party, by an immediate impulse, took off their
hats as if entering a church, without being sensible of so doing. The
Greeks and Catholics shed torrents of tears; and, presently beginning to
cross themselves with unfeigned devotion, asked if they might be permitted
to take off the covering from their feet, and proceed, barefooted to the
Holy Sepulchre. We had not been prepared for the grandeur of the spectacle
which the city alone exhibited. Instead of a wretched and ruined town, by
some described as the desolated remnant of Jerusalem, we beheld, as it
were, a flourishing and stately metropolis, presenting a magnificent
assemblage of domes, towers, palaces, churches, and monasteries; all of
which, glittering in the sun's rays, shone with inconceivable splendour.
As we drew nearer, our whole attention was engrossed by its noble and
interesting appearance."[73]

The effect produced upon the Christian army when they obtained the first
view of the holy city is beautifully described by the Italian poet,
thereby supplying, it may be suspected, the model which has been so
faithfully copied by the English tourist. We avail ourselves of the
translation of Hoole.

"Now from the golden East the zephyrs borne,
Proclaimed with balmy gales the approach of morn;
And fair Aurora decked her radiant head
With roses cropp'd from Eden's flowery bed;
When from the sounding camp was heard afar
The noise of troops preparing for the war:
To this succeed the trumpet's loud alarms,
And rouse, with shriller notes, the host to arms.

"With holy zeal their swelling hearts abound,
And their wing'd footsteps scarcely print the ground.
When now the sun ascends the ethereal way,
And strikes the dusty field with warmer ray;
Behold, Jerusalem in prospect lies!
Behold, Jerusalem salutes their eyes!
At once a thousand tongues repeat the name,
And hail Jerusalem with loud acclaim!

"At first, transported with the pleasing sight,
Each Christian bosom glowed with full delight;
But deep contrition soon their joy suppressed,
And holy sorrow saddened every breast;
Scarce dare their eyes the city walls survey,
Where clothed in flesh their dear Redeemer lay,
Whose sacred earth did once their Lord enclose,
And when triumphant from the grave he rose!

"Each faltering tongue imperfect speech supplies;
Each labouring bosom heaves with frequent sighs.
Each took the example as their chieftains led,
With naked feet the hallowed soil they tread.
Each throws his martial ornaments aside,
The crested helmets with their plumy pride;
To humble thoughts their lofty hearts they bend,
And down their cheeks the pious tears descend."[74]

No city assuredly presents a more striking example of the vicissitude of
human affairs than the capital of the Jews. When we behold its walls
levelled, its ditches filled up, and all its buildings embarrassed with
ruins, we scarcely can believe we view that celebrated metropolis which
formerly withstood the efforts of the most powerful empires, and for a
time resisted the arms of Rome itself; though, by a whimsical change of
fortune, its mouldering edifices now receive her homage and reverence. "In
a word," says Volney, "we with difficulty recognize Jerusalem." Still more
are we astonished at its ancient greatness, when we consider its
situation, amid a rugged soil, destitute of water, and surrounded by the
dry channels of torrents and steep hills. Remote from every great road, it
seems not to have been calculated either for a considerable mart of
commerce, or for the centre of a great consumption. It overcame, however,
every obstacle, and may be adduced as a proof of what patriotism and
religion may effect in the hands of a good government, or when favoured by
happy circumstances from without. The same principles, in some degree
modified, still preserve to this city its feeble existence. The renown of
its miracles, perpetuated in the East, invites and retains a considerable
number of inhabitants within its walls.[75]

As a contrast to the description of Dr. Clarke, the reader may not be
displeased to peruse the notes of Sir Frederick Henniker on the same
subject:--"Jerusalem is called, even by the Mohammedans, the Blessed
City,--the streets of it are narrow and deserted,--the houses dirty and
ragged,--the shops few and forsaken,--and throughout the whole there is
not one symptom of either commerce, comfort, or happiness. Is this the
city that men call the Perfection of Beauty, the Joy of the whole
Earth?--The town, which appears to me not worth possession, even without
the trouble of conquest, is walled entirely round, is about a mile in
length and half a mile in width, so that its circumference may be
estimated at three miles. In three quarters of an hour I performed the
circuit. It would be difficult to conceive how it could ever have been
larger than it now is; for, independent of the ravines, the four outsides
of the city are marked by the brook of Siloam, by a burial-plate at either
end, and by the Hill of Calvary; and the Hill of Calvary is now within the
town, so that it was formerly smaller than it is at present. The best view
of it is from the Mount of Olives; it commands the exact shape, and nearly
every particular, namely, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Armenian
Convent, the Mosque of Omar, St. Stephen's Gate, the round-topped houses,
and the barren vacancies of the city. The Mosque of Omar is the St.
Peter's of Turkey. The building itself has a light, pagoda appearance; the
garden in which it stands occupies a considerable part of the city, and
contrasted with the surrounding desert is beautiful; but it is forbidden
ground, and Jew or Christian entering within its precincts must, if
discovered, forfeit either his religion or his life."[76]

The observation made by Sir Frederick, in regard to the difficulty and
danger of entering the Mosque of Omar, has been verified on more than one
occasion. But the obstacles, apparently insurmountable, were overcome by
Dr. Richardson, who, in return for the successful exercise of his
professional skill, was rewarded by a clandestine visit to the shrine of
the Mussulman saint. It will appear, from the few details which we are
about to select from his volume, that the veil of mystery does not conceal
anything really worth seeing. Like Pompey in the Temple, the Christian
visiter, whose presence, in like manner, profanes the holy place, feels no
other surprise than is occasioned by the fact, that men have agreed to
excite curiosity by prohibiting an imaginary gratification.

"On our arrival at the door, a gentle knock brought up the sacristan, who,
apprized of our intention, was within waiting to receive us. He demanded,
rather sternly, who we were, and was answered by my black conductor in
tones no less consequential than his own. The door immediately edged up,
to prevent as much as possible the light from shining out, and we squeezed
ourselves in with a gentle and noiseless step, although there was no
person near who could be alarmed by the loudest sound of our bare feet
upon the marble floor. The door was no sooner shut than the sacristan,
taking a couple of candles in his hand, showed us all over the interior of
the building, pointing, in the pride of his heart, to the elegant marble
walls, the beautifully-gilded ceiling, the well where the true worshippers
drink and wash,--with which we also blessed our palates and moistened our
beards,--the paltry reading-desk with the ancient Koran, the handsome
columns, and the green stone with the wonderful nails. As soon as we had
completed this circuit, pulling a key from his girdle, he unlocked the
door of the railing that separates the outer from the inner part of the
mosque, which, with an elevation of two or three steps, let us into the
sacred recess. Here he pointed out the patches of mosaic in the floor, the
round flat stone which the Prophet carried on his arm in battle, directed
us to introduce our hand through the hole in the wooden box, to feel the
print of the Prophet's foot, and, through the posts of the wooden rail, to
feel as well as to see the marks of the angel Gabriel's fingers (into
which I carefully put my own) in the sacred stone that occupies the centre
of the mosque, and from which it derives the name of Sakhara or Locked-up,
and over which is suspended a fine cloth of green and red satin. It was so
covered with dust that, but for the information of my guide, I should not
have been able to tell the composing colours. Finally, he pointed to the
door that leads into the small cavern below, of which he had not the key.

"I looked up to the interior of the dome; but, there being few lamps
burning, the light was not sufficient to show me any of its beauty farther
than a general glance. The columns and curiosities were counted over again
and again, the arches were specially examined and enumerated, to be sure
that I had not missed nor forgotten any of them. Writing would have been
an ungracious behaviour, calculated to excite a thousand suspicions, that
next day would have gone to swell the current of the city gossip, to the
prejudice both of myself and of my friend. Having examined the adytum, we
once more touched the footstep of the Prophet and the finger-prints of the
angel Gabriel, and descended the steps, over which the door was
immediately secured."[77]

Dr. Richardson was afterward permitted to visit this splendid mosque
during the day, when he found that the dimensions of the enclosure in
which it stands is about fifteen hundred feet in length, and a thousand in
breadth. In the sacred retirement of this charming spot, the followers of
the Prophet delight to saunter, or repose, as in the elysium of their
devotions; and, arrayed in the gorgeous costume of the East, add much to
the interest, the beauty, and solemn stillness of the scene, from which
they seem loath to retire. The Sakhara itself is a regular octagon of
about sixty feet a side, and is entered by four spacious doors, each of
which is adorned with a porch projecting from the line of the building and
rising considerably on the wall. All the sides of it are paneled. The
centre stone of one panel is square, of another it is octagonal, and thus
they alternate all round; the sides of each running down the angles like a
plain pilaster, and giving an appearance as if the whole were set in a
frame. The marble is white, with a considerable tinge of blue; square
pieces of the latter colour being introduced in different places, so as to
confer upon the exterior a very pleasing effect. The upper story is faced
with small tiles painted of different colours, white, yellow, green, and
blue; some of them are also covered with sentences from the Koran. At this
height there are seven elegant windows on each side, except where the
porches interfere, and then there are only six; the general appearance of
the edifice being extremely light and beautiful, more especially from the
mixture of the soft colours above and the delicate tints of the marble in
the main body of the structure.

The interior fully corresponds to the magnificence and beauty just
described. There are twenty-four marble columns, placed parallel to the
eight sides of the building, three opposite to each side, so as still to
preserve the octagonal form. Eight of them are large plain pillars
belonging to no particular order of architecture, and all standing
opposite to the eight entering angles of the edifice, and deeply indented
on the inner side; so that they furnish an acute termination to the
octagonal lines within. Between every two of the square columns there are
two of a round figure, well proportioned, and resting on a base. They are
from eighteen to twenty feet high, with a sort of Corinthian capital. A
large square plinth of marble extends from the top of the one column to
the other, and above it there is constructed a number of arches all round,
which support the inner end of the roof or ceiling, the outer end resting
upon the walls of the building. This is composed of wood, or plaster,
highly ornamented with a species of carving, and richly gilt.

But this gorgeous temple owes both its name and existence to a large
irregular mass of stone, having an oblong shape, which still occupies the
centre of the mosque. It is a portion of the calcareous rock on which the
city is built, and which prevails in the other mountains in the
neighbourhood of Jerusalem, having very much the appearance of being a
part of the bed that might have been left when the foundation of the
building was levelled. It rises highest towards the south-west corner, and
falls abruptly at the end, where are the prints of the Prophet's foot. It
is irregular on the upper surface, the same as when it was broken from the
quarry. It is enclosed all round with a wooden rail about four feet high,
and which in every place is nearly in contact with the stone. We have
already mentioned that there is a cover or canopy of variously-coloured
silk suspended over it; and nothing, we are assured can be held in higher
veneration than the Hadjr-el-sakhara, the Locked-up Stone.[78]

But this fragment of limestone has more weighty pretensions to the
veneration of the Moslem than the mere print of the angel Gabriel's
fingers or of the Prophet's foot; for, like the Palladium of ancient Troy,
it is said to have fallen from heaven on this very spot, at the time when
prophecy commenced in Jerusalem. It was employed as a seat by the
venerable men to whom that gift was communicated; and, as long as the
spirit of vaticination continued to enlighten their minds, the slab
remained steady for their accommodation. But no sooner was the power of
prophecy withdrawn, and the persecuted seers compelled to flee for safety
to other lands, than the stone is declared to have manifested the
profoundest sympathy in their fate, and even to have resolved to accompany
them in their flight. On this occasion Gabriel the archangel interposed
his authority, and prevented the departure of the prophetical chair. He
grasped it with his mighty hand, and nailed it to its rocky bed till the
arrival of Mohammed, who, horsed on the lightning's wing, flew thither
from Mecca, joined the society of seventy thousand ministering spirits,
and, having offered up his devotions to the throne of God, fixed the stone
immovably in this holy site, around which the Caliph Omar erected his
magnificent mosque.

Within the same enclosure there is another house of prayer called El Aksa,
which, though a fine building, is greatly inferior to El Sakhara. Between
the two there is a beautiful fountain, which takes its name from a clump
of orange-trees overshadowing its water. The mosque is composed of seven
naves supported by pillars and columns, and at the head of the centre nave
is a fine cupola. Two others branch off at right angles to the principal
body of the edifice. Before it is a portico of seven arches in front and
one in depth, supported by square pillars. Ali Bey, who in his character
of Mussulman was permitted to examine the holy fane at leisure, describes
the great central nave of the Aksa as about 162 feet long and 32 broad. It
is supported on each side by seven arches lightly pointed, resting upon
cylindrical pillars, in the form of columns, but without any architectural
proportion, with foliaged capitals which do not belong to any order. The
fourth pillar to the right of the entrance is octangular, and enormously
thick. It is called the pillar of Sidi Omar. The walls rise 13 feet above
the tops of the arches, and contain two rows of twenty-one windows each.
The roof is of timber, without being vaulted. The cupola is supported by
four large arches resting upon four square pillars. It is spherical, with
two rows of windows, and is ornamented with arabesque paintings and
gilding of exquisite beauty. Its diameter is equal to that of the central

M. Burckhardt describes the Holy House in Jerusalem as a union of several
buildings erected at different periods of Islamism, bearing upon them
demonstrative proofs of the prevailing taste of the various ages in which
they were successively constructed. It is not precisely one mosque, but a
group of mosques. Its name in Arabic, El Haram, strictly signifies a
temple or place consecrated by the peculiar presence of the Divinity. The
profane and the infidel are forbidden to enter it. The Mussulman religion
acknowledges but two temples, those, namely, of Mecca and of Jerusalem;
both are called El Haram; both are equally prohibited by law to
Christians, Jews, and every other person who is not a believer in the
Prophet. The mosques, on the other hand, are considered merely as places
of meeting for certain acts of worship, and are not held so especially
consecrated as to demand the total exclusion of all who do not profess the
true faith. Entrance into them is not denied to the unbeliever by any
statute of the Mohammedan law; and hence it is not uncommon for Christians
at Constantinople to receive from the government a written order to visit
even the Mosque of St. Sophia. But the sultan himself could not grant
permission to an infidel either to pass into the territory of Mecca, or to
enter the Temple of Jerusalem. A firman granting such privileges would be
regarded as a most horrid sacrilege: it would not be respected by the
people; and the favoured object would inevitably become the victim of his
own imprudent boldness.[79]

In the interior of the rock whereon the Sakhara stands there is a cave,
into which Dr. Richardson could not obtain admittance. He was four times
in the mosque, and went twice thither under the express assurance that its
doors should be thrown open to him. But when he arrived the key was always
wanting, and when the keeper of it was sought he could never be found. Ali
Bey, who encountered no obstacle, reveals all the mystery of this
subterranean mansion. It is a room forming an irregular square of about
eighteen feet surface, and eight feet high in the middle. The roof is that
of a natural vault, quite irregular. In descending the staircase, there is
upon the right-hand, near the bottom, a little tablet of marble, bearing
the name of El Makam Souleman, the Place of Solomon. A similar one upon
the left is named El Makam Daoud, the Place of David. A cavity or niche on
the south-west side of the rock is called El Makam Ibrahim, the Place of
Abraham. A similar concave step at the north-west angle is described as El
Makam Djibrila, the Place of Gabriel; and a sort of stone table at the
north-east angle is denominated El Makam el Hoder, the Place of Elias. In
the roof of the apartment, exactly in the middle, there is an aperture
almost cylindrical through the whole thickness of the rock, about three
feet in diameter. This is the Place of the Prophet.

M. Burckhardt observed a copy of the Koran, the leaves of which were four
feet long, and more than two feet and a half broad. Tradition reports that
it belonged to the Caliph Omar; but he saw a similar one in the grand
mosque at Cairo, and another at Mecca, to both of which the same origin is
assigned. The drawings supplied by this enterprising traveller give a very
distinct notion of the extent and magnificence of the great Mussulman
temple,--the most prominent object in the modern Jerusalem, and occupying
the site of the still more interesting edifice erected by Solomon in the
proudest period of Jewish history.

But the Christian pilgrim, who walks about the holy city "to tell her
towers and mark her bulwarks," is more readily attracted by less splendid
objects, the memorials of his own more humble faith. Among these the most
remarkable is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the
lower part of the sloping hill distinguished by the name of Acre, near the
place where it is joined to Mount Moriah. The Turkish government, aware of
the veneration which all Christians entertain for relics in any way
connected with the sufferings of the great Author of their religion, have
converted this feeling into a source of revenue; every person not subject
to the Sublime Porte, who visits the shrine of Jesus Christ, being
compelled to pay a certain sum of money for admittance. But the church,
nevertheless, is opened only on particular days of the week, and cannot be
seen at any other time without an order from the two convents, the Latin
and the Greek, with the sanction of the governor of the city. On such
occasions the pressure at the doors is very great; the zeal of the
pilgrims checked by the insolence of the Turks, who delight to insult and
disappoint their anxiety, leading sometimes to scenes of tumult not quite
in harmony with their pious motives. We shall give an account of the
effect produced by the local and historical associations of the place on a
sober spirit, in the words of a traveller to whom we have been already

"The mind is not withdrawn from the important concerns of this hallowed
spot by any tasteful decorations or dignified display of architecture in
its plan or in its walls; but having cleared the throng, the religion of
the place is allowed to take full possession of the soul, and the visiter
feels as if he were passing into the presence of the great and immaculate
Jehovah, and summoned to give an account of the most silent and secret
thoughts of his heart. Having passed within these sacred walls, the
attention is first directed to a large flat stone in the floor, a little
within the door; it is surrounded by a rail, and several lamps hang
suspended over it. The pilgrims approach it on their knees; touch and kiss
it, and prostrating themselves before it, offer up their prayers in holy
adoration. This is the stone on which the body of our Lord was washed and
anointed and prepared for the tomb. Turning to the left and proceeding a
little forward, we came into a round space immediately under the dome,
surrounded with sixteen large columns which support the gallery above. In
the centre of this space stands the Holy Sepulchre; it is enclosed in an
oblong house, rounded at one end with small arcades or chapels for prayer,
on the outside of it. These are for the Copts, the Abyssinians, the Syrian
Mareonites, and other Christians, who are not, like the Roman Catholics,
the Greeks, and Armenians, provided with large chapels in the body of the
church. At the other end it is squared off and furnished with a platform
in front, which is ascended by a flight of steps, having a small
parapet-wall of marble on each hand, and floored with the same material.
In the middle of this small platform stands a block of polished marble
about a foot and a half square; on this stone sat the angel who announced
the blessed tidings of the resurrection to Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and
Mary the mother of James. Advancing, and taking off our shoes and turbans
at the desire of the keeper, he drew aside the curtain, and stepping down,
and bending almost to the ground, we entered by a low narrow door into
this mansion of victory, where Christ triumphed over the grave, and
disarmed Death of all his terrors. Here the mind looks on Him who, though
he knew no sin, yet entered the mansions of the dead to redeem us from
death, and the prayers of a grateful heart ascend with a risen Saviour to
the presence of God in heaven."[80]

The tomb exhibited is a sarcophagus of white marble, slightly tinged with
blue, being fully six feet long, three feet broad, and two feet two inches
deep. It is but indifferently polished, and seems as if it had at one time
been exposed to the action of the atmosphere, by which it has been
considerably affected. It is without any ornament, made in the Greek
fashion, and not like the more ancient tombs of the Jews, which we see cut
in the rock for the reception of the dead. There are seven lamps
constantly burning over it, the gifts of different sovereigns in a
succession of ages. It occupies about one-half of the sepulchral chamber,
and extends from one end of it to the other. A space about three feet wide
in front of it is all that remains for the accommodation of visiters, so
that not more than three or four can be conveniently admitted at a time.

Leaving this hallowed spot, the pilgrim is conducted to the place where
our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, and next to the Chapel of Apparition,
where he presented himself to the Blessed Virgin. The Greeks have an
oratory opposite to the Holy Sepulchre, in which they have set up a globe,
representing, as they are pleased to imagine, the centre of the earth;
thus transferring from Delphi to Jerusalem the absurd notions of the pagan
priests of antiquity relative to the figure of the habitable world. After
this he enters a dark narrow staircase, which, by about twenty steps,
carries him to Mount Calvary. "This," exclaims Dr. Richardson, "is the
centre, the grand magnet of the Christian church: from this proceed life
and salvation; thither all hearts tend and all eyes are directed; here
kings and queens cast down their crowns, and great men and women part with
their ornaments; at the foot of the cross all are on a level, equally
needy and equally welcome."[81]

On Calvary is shown the spot where the Redeemer was nailed to the cross,
the hole into which the end of it was fixed, and the rent in the rock. All
these are covered with marble, perforated in the proper places, so that
they may be seen and touched. Near at hand a cross is erected on an
elevated part of the ground, and a wooden body stretched upon it in the
attitude of suffering. Descending from the Mount, the traveller enters the
chapel of St. Helens, the mother of Constantine, in which is the vault
where the true cross is said to have been found,--an event that continues
to be celebrated every year on the third of May by an appropriate mass.
The place is large enough to contain about thirty or forty individuals,
and on that annual solemnity it is usually crowded to the door.

The spirit in which these commemorations are sometimes performed is by no
means honourable to the Christian character. An ancient rivalry between
the members of the Greek and those of the Roman communion continues to
imbitter their disputes in regard to their respective privileges and
procedure. Maundrell informs us that in his time each fraternity had their
own altar and sanctuary, at which they had a peculiar right to celebrate
divine services and to exclude all other nations. But, says he, that which
has always been the great prize contended for by the several sects, is the
command and appropriation of the holy Sepulchre; a privilege contested
with so much unchristian fury and animosity, especially between the Greeks
and Latins that, in disputing which party should go in to celebrate their
mass, they have sometimes proceeded to blows and wounds, even at the very
door of the sepulchre, mingling their own blood with their sacrifices. The
King of Franca interposed about the end of the seventeenth century, and
obtained an order for the grand vizier to put that holy place into the
possession of the Western Church; an arrangement which was accomplished in
the year 1690, and secured to the Latins the exclusive privilege of saying
mass in it. "And though it be permitted to Christians of all nations to go
into it for their private devotions, yet none other may solemnize any
public office of religion there."[82]

The daily employment of these recluses is to trim the lamps, and to make
devotional visits and processions to the several sanctuaries in the
church. Thus they spend their time, many of them for four or six years
together; nay, so far are some transported with the pleasing contemplation
in which they here entertain themselves, that they will never come out to
their dying day; burying themselves, as it were, alive in our Lord's

It was at the holy season of Easter that Mr. Maundrell visited Jerusalem,
when he witnessed the annual service performed by the monks; rather too
minutely descriptive, perhaps, of the great event to which it refers.
"Their ceremony begins on Good Friday night, which is called by them the
_Nox Tenebrosa_, and is observed with such an extraordinary solemnity that
I cannot omit to give a particular description of it:--As soon as it grew
dark, all the friars and pilgrims were convened in the chapel of the
Apparition, in order to go in a procession round the church. But before
they set out one of the friars preached a sermon in Italian: He began his
discourse thus:--_In questa notte tenebrosa_,--at which words all the
candles were instantly put out, to yield a livelier image of the occasion:
and so we were held the preacher for nearly half an hour very much in the
dark. Sermon being ended, every person present had a large lighted taper
put into his hand, as if it were to make amends for the former darkness;
and the crucifixes and other utensils were disposed in order for beginning
the procession. Among the other crucifixes there was one of a very large
size, which bore upon it the image of our Lord as big as the life. The
image was fastened to it with great nails, crowned with thorns, and
besmeared with blood; and so exquisitely was it formed, that it
represented, in a very lively manner, the lamentable spectacle of our
Lord's body as it hung upon the cross. This figure was carried all along
in the head of the procession; after which the company followed to all the
sanctuaries in the church, singing their appointed hymn at every one.

"The first place they visited was that of the pillar of Flagellation, a
large piece of which is kept in a little cell just at the door of the
chapel of the Apparition. There they sang their proper hymn; and another
friar entertained the company with a sermon in Spanish, touching the
scourging of our Lord. From hence they proceeded in solemn order to the
prison of Christ, where they pretend he was secured while the soldiers
made things ready for his crucifixion; here likewise they sang their hymn,
and a third friar preached in French. From the prison they went to the
altar of the Division of our Lord's garments, where they only sang their
hymn without adding any sermon. Having done here, they advanced to the
chapel of the Division; at which, after their hymn, they had a fourth
sermon, as I remember, in French.

"From this place they went up to Calvary, leaving their shoes at the
bottom of the stairs. Here are two altars to be visited; one where our
Lord is supposed to have been nailed to the cross, another where his cross
was erected. At the former of these they laid down the great crucifix upon
the floor, and acted a kind of resemblance of Christ's being nailed to the
cross; and after the hymn another friar preached a sermon in Spanish upon
the crucifixion. From hence they removed to the adjoining altar, where the
cross is supposed to have been erected, bearing the image of our Lord's
body. At this altar is a hole in the natural rock, said to be the very
same individual one in which the foot of our Lord's cross stood. Here they
set up their cross with the bloody crucified image upon it; and leaving it
in that posture, they first sang their hymn, and then the father guardian,
sitting in a chair before it, preached a passion sermon in Italian.

"At about one yard and a half distant from the hole in which the foot of
the cross was fixed is seen that memorable cleft in the rock, said to have
been made by the earthquake which happened at the suffering of the God of
nature; when, as St. Matthew witnesseth, the rocks rent and the very
graves were opened. This cleft, or what now appears of it, is about a span
wide at its upper part, and two deep; after which it closes. But it opens
again below, as you may see in another chapel contiguous to the side of
Calvary, and runs down to an unknown depth in the earth. That this rent
was made by the earthquake that happened at our Lord's passion there is
only tradition to prove; but that it is a natural and genuine breach, and
not counterfeited by any art, the sense and reason of every one that sees
it may convince him; for the sides of it fit like two tallies to each
other, and yet it runs in such intricate windings as could not well be
counterfeited by art, nor arrived at by any instruments.

"The ceremony of the passion being over, and the guardian's sermon ended,
two friars, personating, the one Joseph of Arimathea, the other Nicodemus,
approached the cross, and with a most solemn, concerned air, both of
aspect and behaviour, drew out the great nails, and took down the feigned
body from the cross. It was an _effigies_ so contrived that its limbs were
soft and flexible, as if they had been real flesh; and nothing could be
more surprising that to see the two pretended mourners bend down the arms
which were before extended, and dispose them upon the trunk in such a
manner as is usual in corpses. The body being taken down from the cross
was received in a fair large winding-sheet, and carried down from Calvary;
the whole company attending as before to the stone of Unction. This is
taken for the very place where the precious body of our Lord was annointed
and prepared for the burial. Here they laid down their imaginary corpse;
and casting over it several sweet powders and spices, wrapped it up in the
winding-sheet. While this was doing they sang their proper hymn, and
afterward one of the friars preached in Arabic a funeral-sermon. These
obsequies being finished, they carried off their fancied corpse and laid
it in the Sepulchre, shutting up the door till Easter morning. And now,
after so many sermons, and so long, not to say tedious, a ceremony, it may
well be imagined that the weariness of the congregation, as well as the
hour of the night, made it needful to go to rest."[83]

Easter-eve passed without any remarkable observance,--a period of leisure
which was employed by many of the pilgrims in having their arms marked
with the usual ensigns of Jerusalem. "The artists who undertake the
operation do it in this manner; they have stamps of wood of any figure
that you desire, which they first print off upon your arm with powder of
charcoal, then taking two very fine needles tied close together, and
dipping them often, like a pen, in certain ink compounded, as I was
informed, of gun-powder and ox-gall, they make with them small punctures
all along the lines of the figure which they have printed; and then,
washing the part in wine, conclude the work. The punctures they make with
great quickness and dexterity, and with scarce any smart, seldom piercing
so deep as to draw blood. In the afternoon of this day the congregation
was assembled in the area before the holy grave; where the friars spent
some hours in singing over the Lamentations of Jeremiah; which function,
with the usual procession to the holy places, was all the ceremony
required by the ritual of the place."

On Easter-day the scene was changed from gloom to the most lively
congratulation. "The clouds of the former morning were cleared up; and the
friars put on a face of joy and serenity, as if it had been the real
juncture of our Lord's resurrection. Nor doubtless was this joy feigned,
whatever their mourning might be; this being the day on which their Lenten
disciplines expired, and they were now come to a full belly again. The
mass was celebrated this morning just before the Holy Sepulchre, being the
most eminent place in the church; where the father guardian had a throne
erected, and being arrayed in episcopal robes, with a mitre on his head,
in the sight of the Turks he gave the Host to all that were disposed to
receive it; not refusing it to children of seven or eight years old. This
office being ended, we made our exit out of the Sepulchre, and returning
to the convent, dined with the friars."[84]

The latest travellers in Palestine witnessed similar observances on the
same solemn occasion, none of which were in the least calculated to edify
an enlightened mind, and many of them such as could not be contemplated
without feelings of just indignation, mingled with contempt.

There is no greater obstacle to the propagation of Christianity among the
Syrian tribes, and more especially among the Turks and Jews, than the
foolish exhibitions which disgrace the return of the principal festivals
in the Holy Land. The mummeries already described could not fail to be
sufficiently revolting to a people who permit not any image or
representation of created things, even in the uses of ordinary life.
Still, the sincerity and apparent devotion with which the ceremony of the
crucifixion was performed might, in some degree, atone for the unseemly
method adopted by the monks to commemorate an event at once so solemn and
important. But what shall be said in defence of the manifest fraud which
is annually practised in Jerusalem on Easter-eve by the Greek church, when
the credulous multitude are taught to believe that fire descends from
heaven into the Holy Sepulchre to kindle their lamps and torches?

Upon comparing the description given by Maundrell with the accounts of the
latest travellers, we perceive that nearly a century and a half has passed
away without producing any improvement, and that the friars of the present
age are probably not less ignorant or dishonest than their predecessors
five hundred years ago. "They began their disorders by running round the
Holy Sepulchre with all their might and swiftness, crying out as they went
_huia_, which signifies _this is he_, or _this is it_,--an expression by
which they assert the verity of the Christian religion. After they had by
these religious circulations and clamours turned their heads and inflamed
their madness, they began to act the moat antic tricks and postures in a
thousand shapes of distraction. Sometimes they dragged one another along
the floor all round the Sepulchre; sometimes they set one man upright upon
another's shoulders, and in this posture marched round; sometimes they
tumbled round the Sepulchre after the manner of tumblers on the stage. In
a word, nothing can be imagined more rude or extravagant than what was
acted upon this occasion."[85]

"The Greeks first set out in a procession round the Holy Sepulchre, and
immediately at their heels followed the Armenians. In this order they
compassed the Holy Sepulchre thrice, having produced all their gallantry
of standards, streamers, crucifixes, and embroidered habits. Towards the
end of this procession there was a pigeon came fluttering into the cupola
over the Sepulchre, at sight of which there was a greater shout and
clamour than before. This bird, the Latins told us, was purposely let fly
by the Greeks to deceive the people into an opinion that it was a visible
descent of the Holy Ghost. The procession being over, the suffragan of the
Greek patriarch and the principal Armenian bishop approached to the door
of the Sepulchre, and, cutting the string with which it is fastened and
sealed, entered in, shutting the door after them, all the candles and
lamps within having been before extinguished in the presence of the Turks
and other witnesses. The exclamations were doubled as the miracle drew
nearer to its accomplishment; and the people pressed with such vehemence
towards the door of the Sepulchre that it was not in the power of the
Turks to keep them off. The cause of their pressing in this manner is, the
great desire they have to light their candles at the holy flame as soon as
it is first brought out of the Sepulchre, it being esteemed the most
sacred and pure as coming immediately from heaven. The two miracle-mongers
had not been above a minute in the Holy Sepulchre when the glimmering of
the holy fire was seen, or imagined to appear, through some chinks in the
door; and, certainly, Bedlam itself never saw such an unruly transport as
was produced in the mob at this sight.

"Immediately after, out came two priests with blazing torches in their
hands, which they held up at the door of the Sepulchre; while the people
thronged about with inexpressible ardour, every one striving to obtain a
part of the first and purest flame. The Turks, in the mean time, with huge
clubs laid on without mercy; but all this could not repel them, the excess
of their fury making them insensible of pain. Those that got the fire
applied it immediately to their beards, faces, and bosoms, pretending that
it would not burn like an earthly flame. But I plainly saw none of them
could endure this experiment long enough to make good that pretension. So
many hands being employed, you may be sure it could not be long before
innumerable tapers were lighted. The whole church, galleries, and every
place seemed instantly to be in a flame; and with this illumination the
ceremony ended.

"It must be owned that those two within the Sepulchre performed their part
with great quickness and dexterity; but the behaviour of the rabble
without very much discredited the miracle. The Latins take a great deal of
pains to expose this ceremony as a most shameful imposture and a scandal
to the Christian religion,--perhaps out of envy that others should be
masters of so gainful a business. But the Greeks and Armenians pin their
faith upon it; such is the deplorable unhappiness of their priests, that
having acted the cheat so long already, they are forced now to stand to it
for fear of endangering the apostacy of their people. Going out of church
after the rant was over, we saw several people gathered about the Stone of
Unction, who, having got a good store of candles lighted with the holy
fire, were employed in daubing pieces of linen with the wicks of them and
the melting wax, which pieces of linen were designed for winding-sheets.
And it is the opinion of these poor people, that if they can but have the
happiness to be buried in a shroud smutted with this celestial fire, it
will certainly secure them from the flames of hell."[86]

Dr. Richardson, who witnessed the same pitiful ceremony, is not inclined
to give much honour to the performers in respect to skill or dexterous
manipulation. On the contrary, he is of opinion that there is not a
pyrotechnist in London who could not have improved the exhibition. From
the station which he occupied in the church, being the organ-loft of the
Roman Catholic division, he distinctly saw the flame issuing from a
burning substance placed within the tomb, and which was raised and lowered
according to circumstances. The priests meant to be very artful, but were
in reality very ignorant. Like the Druids of old, no one, under the pain
of excommunication, dared to light his torch at that of another; every
individual was bound to derive his flame from the miraculous spark that
descended from above, and which could only be conveyed by the hands of the
chief priest.[87]

Having seen the exhibition of this vile and infamous delusion, the
traveller naturally inquires what credit he ought to give to the
historical statements and local descriptions derived from the Christians
who now occupy Jerusalem. Are the honoured spots within these walls really
what the guardians of the metropolitan church declare them to be? Is the
Mount Calvary shown at this day in the holy city the actual place where
Christ expired upon the cross to redeem the human race? Is the Sepulchre
there exhibited really that of the just man Joseph of Arimathea, in which
the body of the blessed Jesus was laid? Or are all these merely convenient
spots, fixed on at random, and consecrated to serve the interested views
of a crafty priesthood?[88]

We agree in the conclusion, that it is of no consequence to the Christian
faith in what way these questions shall be determined. The great facts on
which the history of the gospel is founded are not so closely connected
with particular spots of earth or sacred buildings as to be rendered
doubtful by any mistake in the choice of a locality. Nor is there any
material discrepancy between the opinions of Chateaubriand, which we are
inclined to adopt, and those of Dr. Clarke, who treats with contempt all
the traditions respecting holy places; for the outline may be correct,
although the minuter details are open to a just suspicion. For example, it
is now extremely difficult to trace the boundaries of Calvary; the effects
of time and the operations of the siege under the Roman prince have
obliterated some of the features by which that remarkable scene was
distinguished; it has even ceased to present the appearance of a mount--an
appellation, by-the-way, which is nowhere given to it in Scripture. But it
does not follow that the Christians who returned from Pella to inhabit the
ruins of the sacred metropolis should have been equally ignorant of its
extent and situation; nor is it at all probable that places so interesting
to the affections of the infant church would be allowed to fall into a
speedy oblivion.

The main error of the modern priests at Jerusalem arises from an anxiety
to exhibit every thing to which any allusion is made by the evangelical
historians; not remembering that the lapse of ages and the devastation of
successive wars have destroyed much, and disguised more, which the early
disciples could most readily identify. The mere circumstance that almost
all the events which attended the close of our Saviour's ministry are
crowded into one scene, covered by the roof of a single church, might
excite a very justifiable doubt as to the exactness of the topography
maintained by the friars of Mount Moriah. "This edifice," says Mr.
Maundrell, "is less than one hundred paces long, and not more than sixty
wide; and yet it is so contrived, that it is supposed to contain under its
roof twelve or thirteen sanctuaries, or places consecrated to a more than
ordinary veneration, by being reputed to have some particular actions done
in them relating to the death and resurrection of Christ."[89]

All that can now be affirmed, observes Dr. Clarke, with any show of
reason, is this, "that if Helena had reason to believe she could identify
the spot where the Sepulchre was, she took especial care to remove every
trace of it, in order to introduce the fanciful and modern work which now
remains. The place may be the same pointed out to her; but not a remnant
of the original Sepulchre can now be ascertained. Yet, with our skeptical
feelings thus awakened, it may prove how powerful the effect of sympathy
is, if we confess, that when we entered into the supposed Sepulchre, and
beheld, by the light of lamps there continually burning, the venerable
figure of an aged monk, with streaming eyes and a long white beard,
pointing to 'the place where the Lord lay,' and calling upon us to kneel
and experience pardon for our sins,--we did kneel, and we participated in
the feelings of more credulous pilgrims. Captain Culverhouse, in whose
mind the ideas of religion and of patriotism were inseparable, with firmer
emotion, drew from its scabbard the sword he had so often wielded in the
defence of his country, and placed it upon the tomb. Humbler comers heaped
the memorials of an accomplished pilgrimage; and while their sighs alone
interrupted the silence of the sanctuary a solemn service was begun."[90]

It is observed by the author of the Itineraire, that the ancient
travellers were extremely fortunate in not being obliged to enter into all
these critical disquisitions; in the first place, because they found in
their readers that religion which never contends against truth; and,
secondly, because every mind was convinced that the only way of seeing a
country as it is must be to see it with all its traditions and
recollections. It is, in fact, with the Bible as his guide that a
traveller ought to visit the Holy Land. If we are determined to carry with
us a spirit of cavil and contradiction, Judea is not worth our going so
far to examine it. What should we say to a man who, in traversing Greece
and Italy, should think of nothing but contradicting Homer and Virgil?
Such, however, is the course adopted by too many modern travellers;
evidently the effect of our vanity, which would excite a high idea of our
own abilities, and at the same time fill us with disdain for those of
other people.[91]

A short time after M. Chateaubriand visited Jerusalem, the church of the
Holy Sepulchre was destroyed by fire; and although it has been since
repaired, it is admitted that both the architecture and the internal
decorations are much inferior to those of the original edifice. The
general plan of the whole building, however, as well as the arrangement of
the holy stations, are so exactly preserved, that the descriptions of the
earliest writers apply as correctly to its present as to its former state.
It is true, that the tombs of Godfrey de Bouillon and of Baldwin his
brother, which called forth the enthusiastic admiration of the French
author just named, have been annihilated by the malignant Greeks, so that
not a vestige remains to mark the spot whereon they stood. The Corinthian
columns of fine marble which formerly adorned the interior being rendered
useless by the fire, the dome is now supported by tall slender pillars of
masonry, plastered on the outside, and so closely grouped together as to
produce the worst effect. We are told, indeed, that the meanness of every
thing about the architecture of the central dome, and of the whole rotunda
which surrounds the Sepulchre itself, can only be exceeded by the wretched
taste of its painted decorations.[92]

It was of the older building that the Vicomte made the following
remarks:--"The church of the Holy Sepulchre, composed of several churches
erected upon an unequal surface, illumined by a multitude of lamps, is
singularly mysterious; a sombre light pervades it, favourable to piety and
profound devotion. Christian priests of various sects inhabit different
parts of the edifice. From the arches above, where they nestle like
pigeons, from the chapels below and subterraneous vaults, their songs are
heard at all hours both of the day and night. The organ of the Latin
monks, the cymbals of the Abyssinian priest, the voice of the Greek
caloyer, the prayer of the solitary Armenian, the plaintive accents of the
Coptic friar, alternately, or all at once, assail your ear. You know not
whence these accents of praise proceed; you inhale the perfume of incense
without perceiving the hand that burns it: you merely observe the pontiff,
who is going to celebrate the most awful of mysteries on the very spot
where they were accomplished, pass quickly by, glide behind the columns,
and vanish in the gloom of the temple.

"Christian readers will perhaps inquire what were my feelings upon
entering this sacred place. I really cannot tell. So many reflections
rushed at once upon my mind, that I was unable to dwell upon any
particular idea. I continued nearly half an hour upon my knees in the
little chamber of the Holy Sepulchre, with my eyes riveted upon the stone,
from which I had not the power to turn them. One of the two monks who
accompanied me remained prostrate on the marble by my side, while the
other, with the Testament in his hand, read to me by the light of the
lamps the passages relating to the sacred tomb. All I can say is that when
I beheld this triumphant Sepulchre, I felt nothing but my own weakness;
and that when my guide exclaimed with St. Paul, O death, where is thy
sting? O grave, where is thy victory? I listened, as if death were about
to reply that he was conquered and enchained in this monument. Where shall
we look in antiquity for anything so impressive, so wonderful, as the last
scenes described by the Evangelists? These are not the absurd adventures
of a deity foreign to human nature: it is a most pathetic history,--a
history which not only extorts tears by its beauty, but whose
consequences, applied to the universe, have changed the face of the earth.
I had just beheld the monuments of Greece, and my mind was still
profoundly impressed with their grandeur; but how far inferior were the
sentiments which they excited to those I felt at the sight of the places
commemorated in the gospel!"[93]

We must not presume to follow the ardent pilgrim along the _Via Dolorosa_,
the name given to the way which the Saviour passed from the house of
Pilate to the Mount of Calvary, nor can we stop to revere the arch, called
_Ecce Homo_, where, we are told, the window may still be seen from which
the Roman judge exclaimed to the vindictive Jews, "Behold the Man!" We
cannot resign our belief to the minute description which recognises the
house of Simon the Pharisee, where Mary Magdalene confessed her sins; the
prison of St. Peter, and the dwelling of Mary the mother of Mark, in which
the same apostle took refuge when he was set at liberty by the angel; and
the mansion of Dives, the rich man at whose gate the mendicant Lazarus was
laid, full of sores.

On crossing the small ravine which divides the modern city from Mount
Zion, the attention of the traveller is drawn to three ancient monuments,
or more properly ruins. Covered with buildings comparatively modern,--the
house of Caiaphas,--the place where Christ held his Last Supper,--and the
tomb or palace of David. The first of these is now a church, the duty of
which is performed by the Armenians; the second, consecrated by the
affecting solemnity, with the memory of which it is still associated,
presents a mosque and a Turkish hospital; while the third, a small vaulted
apartment, contains only three sepulchres formed of dark-coloured atone.
This holy hill is equally celebrated in the Old Testament and in the New.
Here the successor of Saul built a city and a royal dwelling,--here he
kept for three months the Ark of the Covenant;--here the Redeemer
instituted the sacrament which commemorates his death,--here he appeared
to his disciples on the day of his resurrection,--and here the Holy Ghost
descended on the apostles. The place hallowed by the Last Supper, if we
may believe the early Fathers, was transformed into the first Christian
temple the world ever saw, where St. James the Less was consecrated the
first bishop of Jerusalem, and where he presided in the first council of
the church. Finally, it was from this spot that the apostles, in
compliance with the injunction to go and teach all nations, departed,
without purse and without scrip, to seat their religion upon all the
thrones of the earth.

Descending Mount Zion on the east side, you perceive in the valley the
Fountain and Pool of Siloam, so celebrated in the history of our Saviour's
miracles. The brook itself is ill supplied with water, and, compared with
the ideas formed in the mind by the fine invocation of the poet, usually
creates disappointment. Going a few paces to the northward, you come to
the source of the scanty rivulet, which is called by some the Fountain of
the Virgin, from an opinion that she frequently came hither to drink. It
appears in a recess about twenty feet lower than the surface, and under an
arched vault of masonry tolerably well executed. The rock had been
originally hewn down to reach this pool; and a small crooked passage, of
which only the beginning is seen, is said to convey the water out of the
Valley of Siloam, and to supply the means of irrigating the little gardens
still cultivated in that spot. Notwithstanding the dirty state of the
water, and its harsh and brackish taste, it is still used by devout
pilgrims for diseases of the eye.[94]

It is said to have a kind of ebb and flow, sometimes discharging its
current like the Fountain of Vaucluse, at others retaining and scarcely
suffering it to run at all. The Levites, we are likewise told, used to
sprinkle the water of Siloam on the altar at the Feast of Tabernacles,
saying, "Ye shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation." The
reader will find on the opposite page a representation of the Fountain or
Pool of Siloam, as it appeared to the eye of an able traveller; a
considerable part of the arch having fallen down, or been destroyed by the
barbarians who continue to hold Jerusalem in subjection.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat stretches between the eastern walls of the city
and the Mount of Olives, containing a great variety of objects, to which
allusion is made in the Sacred Writings. It was sometimes called the
King's Dale, from a reference to an event recorded in the history of
Abraham, and was afterward distinguished by the name of Jehoshaphat,
because that sovereign erected in it a magnificent tomb. This narrow vale
seems to have always served as a burying-place for the inhabitants of the
holy city: there you meet with monuments of the most remote ages, as well
as of the most modern times: thither the descendants of Jacob resort from
the four quarters of the globe, to yield up their last breath; and a
foreigner sells to them, for its weight in gold, a scanty spot of earth to
cover their remains in the land of their forefathers. Observing many Jews,
whom I could easily recognise by their yellow turbans, quick dark eyes,
black eyebrows, and bushy beards, walking about the place, and reposing
along the Brook Kedron in a pensive mood, the pathetic language of the
Psalmist occurred to me, as expressing the subject of their
meditation--'By the rivers we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.'
Upon frequently inquiring the motive that prompted them in attempting to
go to Jerusalem, the answer was, 'To die in the land of our fathers.'[95]

This valley or dale still exhibits a very desolate appearance. The western
side is a high chalk-cliff supporting the walls of the city; above which
you perceive Jerusalem itself; while the eastern acclivity is formed by
the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offence, so called from the idolatry
which oppresses the fame of Solomon. These two hills are nearly naked, and
of a dull red colour. On their slopes are seen, here and there, a few
bleak and parched vines, some groves of wild olive-trees, wastes covered
with hyssop, chapels, oratories, and mosques in ruins. At the bottom of
the valley you discover a bridge of a single arch, thrown across the
channel of the Brook Kedron. The stones in the Jewish cemetery look like a
heap of rubbish at the foot of the Mount of Offence, below the Arab
village of Siloane, the paltry houses of which are scarcely to be
distinguished from the surrounding sepulchres. From the stillness of
Jerusalem, whence no smoke arises and no noise proceeds,--from the
solitude of these hills, where no living creature is to be seen,--from the
ruinous state of all these tombs, overthrown, broken, and half-open, you
would imagine that the last trumpet had already sounded, and that the
Valley of Jehoshaphat was about to render up its dead.

Amid this scene of desolation three monuments arrest the eyes of the
intelligent pilgrim,--the tombs of Zachariah, of Absalom, and of the king
whose name still distinguishes the valley. The first-mentioned of these is
a square mass of rock, hewn down into form, and isolated from the quarry
out of which it is cut by a passage of twelve or fifteen feet wide on
three of its sides; the fourth or western front being open towards the
valley and to Mount Moriah, the foot of which is only a few yards distant.
This huge stone is eight paces in length on each side, and about twenty
feet high in the front, and ten feet high at the back; the hill on which
it stands having a steep ascent. It has four semicolumns cut out of the
same rock on each of its faces, with a pilaster at each angle, all of a
mixed Ionic order, and ornamented in bad taste. The architraves, the full
moulding, and the deep overhanging cornice which finishes the square, are
all perfectly after the Egyptian manner; and the whole is surmounted by a
pyramid, the sloping aides of which rise from the very edges of the square
below, and terminate in a finished point.

The body of this monument, we have already stated, is one solid mass of
rock, as well as its semicolumns on each face; but the surmounting pyramid
appears to be of masonry. Its sides, however, are perfectly smooth, like
the coated pyramids of Sahara and Dashour, and not graduated by stages
like those of Dijzeh in lower Egypt.

Inconsiderable in size and paltry in its ornaments, this monument, as Mr.
Buckingham observes, is eminently curious. There is no appearance of an
entrance into any part of it; so that it seems; if a tomb, to have been as
firmly closed as the Egyptian pyramids, and, perhaps, for the same respect
for the repose of the dead. It is probable, indeed, that the original
style and plan of the building are derived from the country of the
Pharaohs; while the Grecian columns and pilasters may be the work of a
much later period, when the Jews had learned to combine with the massy
piles of their more ancient architecture the elegant lightness which
distinguished the times of the Seleucidae.[96]

In the immediate vicinity is the tomb of Jehoshaphat,--a cavern which is
more commonly called the Grotto of the Disciples, from an idea that they
went frequently thither to be taught by their Divine Master. The front of
this excavation has two Doric pillars of small size, but of just
proportions. In the interior are three chambers, all of them rude and
irregular in their form, in one of which were several gravestones,
removed, we may suppose, from the open ground for greater security. Like
all the rest, they were flat slabs of an oblong shape, from three to six
inches in thickness, and evidently a portion of the limestone rock which
composes the adjoining hills.

Opposite to this, on the east, is the reputed tomb of Absalom, resembling
nearly in the size, form, and decoration of its square base that of
Zachariah already described; except that it is sculptured with the metopes
and triglyphs of the Doric order. This is surmounted by a sharp conical
dome, having large mouldings running round its base, and on the summit
something like an imitation of flame. There is here again so strange a
mixture of style and ornament, that one knows not to what age to attribute
the monument as a whole. The square mass below is solid, and the Ionic
columns which are seen on each of its faces are half-indented in the rock
itself. The dome is of masonry, and on the eastern side there is a square
aperture in it. Generally speaking, the sight of this monument rather
confirms the idea suggested by the tomb of Zachariah, that the hewn mass
of solid rock, the surmounting pyramid and dome of masonry, and the
sculptured frieze and Ionic columns wrought on the faces of the square
below were works of different periods; being probably ancient sepulchres,
the primitive character of which had been changed by the subsequent
addition of foreign ornaments. There is, besides, every reason to believe
that this monument, represented below, really occupies the site of the one
which was set up by him whose name it bears. "Now Absalom in his lifetime
had reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the King's Dale: for he
said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance; and he called the
pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day Absalom's

Chateaubriand is of opinion, that except the Pool of Bethesda at
Jerusalem, we have no remains of the primitive architecture of its
inhabitants. This reservoir, a hundred and fifty feet long and forty
broad, is still to be seen near St. Stephen's Gate, where it bounded the
Temple on the north. The sides are walled by means of large stones joined
together by iron cramps, and covered with flints imbedded in a substance
resembling plaster. Here the lambs destined for sacrifice were washed; and
it was on the brink of this pool that Christ said to the paralytic man,
"Arise, take up thy bed and walk." It receives a melancholy interest from
the fact that it is probably the last remnant of Jerusalem as it appeared
in the days of Solomon and of his immediate successors.

It cannot be denied that the tombs in the Valley of Jehoshaphat display an
alliance of Egyptian and Grecian taste; and, in naturalizing in their
capital the architecture of Memphis and of Athens, it is equally certain
that the Jews mixed with it the forms of their own peculiar style. From
this combination resulted a heterogeneous kind of structure, forming, as
it were, the link between the Pyramids and the Parthenon,--monuments in
which you discover a sombre, yet bold and elevated genius, associated with
a pleasing and cultivated imagination.

Our limits forbid us to follow the footsteps of the pilgrim in his minute
survey of the "Sepulchres of the Kings," which, it is acknowledged, cannot
be traced back to a remoter era than that of the Grecian dynasty at
Antioch and Damascus. There are several other tombs and grottoes, to which
tradition has attached venerable names, and even consecrated them as the
scene of important events; but as they are not remarkable on any other
account, we shall not extend to an undue length our description of the
holy places under the walls of Jerusalem.

We shall simply remark, that a difference of opinion exists among modern
travellers in regard to the extent of the ancient city, the ground which
it actually covered, the changes that it has since undergone in point of
locality, and hence, in respect to the position of some of the more
prominent objects which attract the attention of the inquisitive tourist
in our own days. Dr. Clarke has distinguished himself by some bold
speculations on this head, the effect of which is to derange all the
received notions relative to the scene of the crucifixion and the place of
the Holy Sepulchre. It will indeed be readily granted, that it is a matter
of very small importance to the faith of a Christian to determine whether
the decease which was accomplished at Jerusalem took place on the
north-western or the south-eastern extremity of that metropolis. But as
the history and tradition of many ages have fixed the spot where the cross
was erected and where the new tomb in the rock had its situation, it is
requisite that the arguments of a writer who himself pays so little
respect to authority should be examined with attention. In this case, it
is obvious, an inspection of the ground candidly and distinctly reported
is of much more weight than the most ingenious reasoning if destitute of
facts; on which account, we are happy to have it in our power to refer to
the journal of a learned gentleman hitherto unpublished, who about three
years ago travelled in Syria and Palestine.

"We passed by the place of St. Stephen's martyrdom down into the Valley of
Jehoshaphat. This valley, independently of associations, is highly
picturesque. It is deep and narrow; the lower part is green with scattered
olives. The slope up towards the city is also smooth and green, and
crowned by the towers and battlements. On ascending the Mount of Olives,
which we did towards the south, we had a splendid view of Jerusalem. The
chief ornaments are the two domes of the Holy Sepulchre, the mosque of
Omar, and another large mosque with a smaller dome; but the white houses
make a good show, and the walls are picturesque. On looking at Jerusalem
from this place, the great features seemed to me to agree entirely with
the established maps, and Dr. Clarke's theory appeared quite untenable.
The only difficulty is, that there is no valley which _runs up all the
way_ so as to divide entirely Mount Zion from Mount Moriah. A ravine does
run far enough to cut off the Temple, but no more. The extent of this
difficulty must depend on the description left us of the Tyropaeum and
Millo. Was there a deep valley such as time and change might not have
obliterated? The people of the convent gave the name of the Mount of
Offence to a low hill on the south of the Mount of Olives; but Clarke
seems to think that the real Mount of Offence is that divided by Jehinnom
from Zion, and called by our guide Monte de Mal Consiglio. We visited the
Mohammedan chapel over the place of the Ascension, and saw the alleged
print of Christ's foot. We next went to the place called Viri Galilaei (ye
men of Galilee), and, after looking in vain for Dr. Clarke's pagan
remains, descended towards the Cave of the Prophets. We saw the well where
Nehemiah found the fire of the altar, and then went up the Valley of
Hinnom; first to the tomb called the Crypt of the Apostles, close to the
Aceldama, or Field of Blood. We saw many other grottoes; one had [Greek:
taes hagias Sion] inscribed upon it, as had another much farther up. Near
this last was that which Clarke maintained to be the Holy Sepulchre. We
saw one which would do very well for it; but so would many others. This
one was a cave, with a place for a body cut out in the back part of it,
but raised like a stone trough, not sunk in the floor. There is, of
course, not a shadow of reason for thinking Clarke's cave to be the real
one, and very little that I can see for doubting that the nominal Holy
Sepulchre is so in fact, or, rather, that it is _on the site_ of the real
one, which must have been destroyed when Adrian erected his temple to
Venus on the spot. From these caves we went by the Pool of Bathsheba to
the Bethlehem Gate, and so along the west side of the town to the Tombs of
the Judges and Kings, which lie north or north-west of the city. I
observed large foundations of ancient walls and heaps of rubbish west of
the modern town, where Clarke seems to assume that there was anciently no
part of the city. There and on the north I also observed wells opening
into large covered reservoirs for water. We entered only one of the Tombs
of the Judges, the rest being insignificant. That one was large, with a
pediment which had dentiles and other Greek ornaments. Inside there were
at least three chambers, surrounded by receptacles for bodies. In
returning we went to the Tombs of the Kings, which, like the others, are
cut out of the rock, and, like them too, have Grecian ornaments. There is
one large cave; the front has a handsome entablature, the upper part
ornamented with alternate circular garlands, bunches of grapes, and an
ornament of acanthus leaves; the lower with a rich band of foliage
disposed with much elegance."[98]

Hence, it appears that the weight of evidence preponderates decidedly in
favour of the common opinions in regard to the form of the ancient city
and the places which are usually denominated holy. Why, then, should any
one attempt to disturb the belief or acquiescence of the Christian world
on a subject concerning which all nations have hitherto found reason to
agree? The members of the primitive church had better means than we have
of being fully informed respecting the scenes of the evangelical history;
and it is manifest that amid all the changes which ensued in Jerusalem,
either from conquest or superstition, nothing was more unlikely than that
the faithful should forget the sacred spot where their redemption was
completed, or that they should consent to transfer their veneration to any


_Description of the Country South and East of Jerusalem_.

Garden of Gethsemane; Tomb of Virgin Mary; Grottoes on Mount of Olives;
View of the City; Extent and Boundaries; View of Bethany and Dead Sea;
Bethlehem; Convent; Church of the Nativity described; Paintings; Music;
Population of Bethlehem; Pools of Solomon; Dwelling of Simon the Leper; Of
Mary Magdalene; Tower of Simeon; Tomb of Rachel; Convent of John; Fine
Church; Tekoa; Bethulia; Hebron; Sepulchre of Patriarchs; Albaid; Kerek;
Extremity of Dead Sea; Discoveries of Bankes, Legh, and Irby and Mangles;
Convent of St. Saba; Valley of Jordan; Mountains; Description of Lake
Asphaltites; Remains of Ancient Cities in its Basin; Quality of its
Waters; Apples of Sodom; Tacitus, Seetzen, Hasselquist, Chateaubriand;
Width of River Jordan; Jericho-Village of Rihhah; Balsam; Fountain of
Elisha; Mount of Temptation; Place of Blood; Anecdote of Sir F. Henniker;
Fountain of the Apostles; Return to Jerusalem; Markets; Costume; Science;
Arts; Language; Jews; Present Condition of that People.

In proceeding from Jerusalem towards Bethany, the traveller skirts the
Mount of Olives; or, if he wishes to enjoy the magnificent view which it
presents, both of the city and of the extensive tract watered by the
Jordan, he ascends its heights, and at the same time inspects the remains
of sacred architecture still to be seen on its summit. As he passes from
the eastern gate, the Garden of Gethsemane meets his eyes, as well as the
tomb which bears the name of the Blessed Virgin. This has a building over
it with a pretty front, although the Grecian ornaments sculptured in
marble are not in harmony with the pointed arch at the entrance. It is
approached by a paved court, now a raised way, leading from the Mount of
Olives over the Brook Kedron. The descent into it is formed by a handsome
flight of steps composed of marble, being about fifty in number and of a
noble breadth. About midway down are two arched recesses in the sides,
said to contain the ashes of St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and of Joseph
her husband. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the visiter is shown the
tomb of the holy Virgin herself, which is in the form of a simple bench
coated with marble. Here the Greeks and Armenians say mass by turns, and
near it there is an humble altar for the Syrian Christians; while opposite
to it is one for the Copts, consisting of earth, and entirely destitute of
lamps, pictures, covering, and every other species of ornament.
Chateaubriand tells us that the Turks had a portion of this grotto:
Buckingham asserts that they have no right to enter it, nor could he
"learn from the keepers of the place that they ever had!" whereas the
author of the Anonymous Journal, from which we have already quoted, states
distinctly that "there is a place reserved for the Mussulmans to pray,
which at the Virgin's Tomb one would not expect to be much in request." So
much for the clashing of authorities on the part of writers who could have
no wish to deceive!

There are various other grottoes on the acclivity of the hill, meant to
keep alive the remembrance of certain occurrences which are either
mentioned in the gospel, or have been transmitted to the present age by
oral tradition. Among these is one which is supposed to be the scene of
the agony and the bloody sweat; a second, that marks the place where St.
Peter and the two sons of Zebedee fell asleep when their Master retired to
pray; and a third, indicating the spot whereon Judas betrayed the Son of
Man with a kiss. Here also is pointed out the rock from which our Saviour
predicted the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple,--that
dreadful visitation, of which the traces are still most visible both
within and around the walls. The curious pilgrim is further edified by the
sight of a cavern where the apostles were taught the Lord's Prayer; and of
another where the same individuals at a later period met together to
compose their Creed. On the principal top of the Mount of Olives,--for the
elevated ground presents three separate summits,--are a mosque and the
remains of a church. The former is distinguished by a lofty minaret which
commands an extensive prospect; but the latter is esteemed more
remarkable, as containing the piece of rock imprinted with the mark of our
Saviour's foot while in the act of ascension.

But the view of the venerable metropolis itself, which stretches out its
lance and sacred enclosures under the eye of the traveller, is still more
interesting than the recapitulation of ambiguous relics. It occupies an
irregular square of about two miles and a half in circumference. Eusebius
gave a measurement of twenty-seven stadia, amounting to nearly a mile more
than its present dimensions; a difference which can easily be explained,
by adverting to the alterations made on the line of fortifications by the
Saracens and Turks, especially on the north-west and western extremities
of the town. Its shortest apparent side is that which faces the east, and
in this is the supposed gate of the ancient Temple, shut up by the
Mussulmans from a superstitious motive, and the small projecting stone on
which their prophet is to sit when he shall judge the world assembled in
the vale below. The southern side is exceedingly irregular, taking quite a
zigzag direction; the south-western entrance being terminated by a mosque
built over the supposed sepulchre of David, on the elevation of Mount
Zion. The form and exact direction of the western and northern walls are
not distinctly seen from the position now assumed; but every part of them
appears to be a modern work, and executed at the same time. They are
flanked at certain distances by square towers, and have battlements all
along their summits, with loopholes for arrows or musketry close to the
top. Their height is about fifty feet, but they are not surrounded by a
ditch. The northern wall runs over ground which declines slightly outward;
the eastern wall passes straight along the brow of Mount Moriah, with the
deep valley of Jehoshaphat below; the southern wall crosses Mount Zion,
with the vale of Hinnom at its feet; and the western wall is carried over
a more uniform level, near the summit of the bare hills which terminate at
the Jaffa gate.[100]

Turning towards the east, the traveller sees at the foot of the hill the
little village of Bethany, so often mentioned in the history of our Lord
and of his personal followers; and at a greater distance, a little more on
the left, he beholds the magnificent scenery of the Jordan and the Dead

There are two roads from Jerusalem to Bethany; the one passing over the
Mount of Olives; the other, the shorter and easier, winding round the
eastern side of it. This village is now both small and poor, the
cultivation of the soil around it being very much neglected by the
indolent Arabs into whose hands it has fallen. Here are shown the ruins of
a house, said to have belonged to Lazarus whom our Saviour raised from the
dead; and, in the immediate neighbourhood, the faithful pilgrim is invited
to devotion in a grotto, which is represented as the actual tomb wherein
the miracle was performed. The dwellings of Simon the Leper, of Mary
Magdalene, and of Martha are pointed out by the Mussulmans, who traffic on
the credulity of ignorant Christians. Nay, they undertake to identify the
spot where the barren fig tree withered under the curse, and the place
where Judas put an end to his life, oppressed by a more dreadful

There is no traveller of any nation, whatever may be his creed or his
impressions in regard to the gospel, who does not make the usual journey
from the Jewish capital to Bethlehem the place of our Lord's nativity. The
road, as we find related, passes over ground extremely rocky and barren,
diversified only by some cultivated patches bearing a scanty crop of
grain, and by banks of wild-flowers which grow in great profusion. On the
way the practised guide points out the ruined tower of Simeon, who upon
beholding the infant Messiah expressed his readiness to leave this world;
the Monastery of Elias, now in possession of the Greeks; and the tomb of
Rachel, rising in a rounded top like the whitened sepulchre of an Arab
sheik. "This," says the honest Maundrell, "may probably be the true place
of her interment; but the present sepulchral monument can be none of that
which Jacob erected, for it appears plainly to be a modern and Turkish
structure." Farther on is the well of which David longed to drink, and of
which his mighty men, at the risk of their lives, procured him a supply;
and here opens to view, in a great valley, that most interesting of all
pastoral scenes, where the angel of the Omnipotent appeared by night to
the shepherds, to announce the glad tidings that Christ was born in

As there was another town of the same name in the tribe of Zebulon, the
Bethlehem that we now approach was usually distinguished by the addition
of Ephrata, or by a reference to the district in which it was situated.
The convent which marks the place of the Redeemer's birth was built by
Helena, after removing the idolatrous structure said to have been erected
by Adrian from a feeling of contempt or jealousy towards the Christians.
At present it is divided among the monks of the Greek, Roman, and Armenian
sects, who have assigned to them separate portions, as well for lodging as
for places of worship; though, on certain days, they may all celebrate the
rites of their common faith on altars which none of them have been
hitherto allowed to appropriate. There are two churches, an upper and a
lower, under the same roof. The former contains nothing remarkable, if we
except a star inlaid in the floor, immediately under the spot in the
heavens where the supernatural sign became visible to the wise men, and,
like it, directly above the place of the Nativity in the church below.

This last is an excavation in the rock, elegantly fitted up and floored
with marble, and to which there is a descent by a flight of steps through
a long narrow passage. Here are shown a great number of tombs, and among
them one in which were said to be buried all the babes of Bethlehem
murdered by the barbarous Herod. From hence the pilgrim is conducted into
a handsome chapel, of which the floors and walls are composed of beautiful
marble, having on each side five oratories, or recesses for prayer,
corresponding to the ten stalls supposed to have been in the stable
wherein our blessed Saviour was born. This sacred crypt is irregular in
shape, because it occupies the site of the stable and the manger. It is
thirty-seven feet six inches long, eleven feet three inches broad, and
nine feet in height. As it receives no light from without, it is illumined
by thirty-two lamps, sent by different princes of Christendom; the other
embellishments are ascribed to the munificent Helena. At the farther
extremity of this small church there is an altar placed in an arcade, and
hollowed out below in the form of an arch, to embrace the sacred spot
where Emmanuel, having laid aside his glory, first appeared in the garb of
human nature. A circle in the floor composed of marble and jasper,
surrounded with silver, and having rays like those with which the sun is
represented, marks the precise situation wherein that stupendous event was
realized. An inscription, denoting that "here Jesus Christ was born of the
Virgin Mary," meets the eye of the faithful worshipper.

Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est.

Adjoining the Altar of the Nativity is the Manger in which the Infant
Messiah was laid. It is also formed of marble, and is raised about
eighteen inches above the floor, bearing a resemblance to the humble bed
which alone the furniture of a stable could supply. Before it is the Altar
of the Wise Men,--a memorial of their adoration and praise at the moment
when they saw the young child and Mary his mother.

This edifice, says the Vicomte de Chateaubriand, is certainly of high
antiquity, and, often destroyed and as often repaired, it still retains
marks of its Grecian origin. It is built in the form of a cross, the nave
being adorned with forty-eight columns of the Corinthian order in four
rows, which are at least two feet six inches in diameter at the base, and
eighteen feet high, including the base and capital. As the roof of the
nave is wanting, these pillars support nothing but a frieze of wood, which
occupies the place of the architrave and of the whole entablature. The
windows are large, and were formerly adorned with Mosaic paintings and
passages from the Bible in Greek and Latin characters, the traces of which
are still visible.

The top of the church affords a fine prospect into the surrounding
country, extending to Tekoa on the south and Engedi on the east. In the
latter place is the grotto where David, a native of Bethlehem, cut off the
skirt of Saul's garment. There is also the convent of Elias, in which is
said to-be a large stone still retaining an impression of his body.
Between this point and Jerusalem Mr. Buckingham was struck with the
appearance of several small detached towers of a square form built in the
midst of vine-lands. These, he learned, were for the accommodation of
watchmen appointed to guard the produce from thieves and wild beasts;
hence explaining a passage which occurs in the Gospel according to St.
Mark:--"A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and
digged a place for the wine-fat, and built a _tower_, and let it out to

It is painful to find that the same animosity which attends the claims of
the several sects of Christians at Jerusalem for the possession of the
Holy Sepulchre disgraces their contentions at Bethlehem for the Grotto of
the Nativity. A few years ago, during the celebration of the Christmas
festival, at which Mr. Bankes was present, a battle took place, in which
some of the combatants were wounded, and others severely beaten; and in
the preceding season the privilege of saying mass at the altar on that
particular day had been fought for at the door of the sanctuary itself
with drawn swords.

Dr. Clarke, whose skepticism in regard to the holy places in the capital
has been already mentioned, grants that the tradition respecting the Cave
of the Nativity is so well authenticated as hardly to admit of dispute.
Having been always held in veneration, the oratory established there by
the first Christians attracted the notice and indignation of the heathens
so early as the time of Adrian, who, as is elsewhere stated, ordered it to
be demolished, and the place to be set apart for the rites of Adonis. This
happened in the second century, and at a period in the emperor's life when
the Grotto of the Nativity was as well known in Bethlehem as the
circumstance to which it owed its celebrity. In the fourth age,
accordingly, we find this fact appealed to by St. Jerome as an
indisputable testimony by which the cave itself had been identified. Upon
this subject there does not seem to be the slightest ground for
skepticism; and the evidence afforded by such a writer will be deemed
sufficient for believing that the monastery erected over the spot, and
where he himself resided, does at this day point out the place of our
Saviour's birth.[103]

Nothing, observes a late traveller, can be more pleasing, or better
calculated to excite sentiments of devotion, than this subterranean
church. It is adorned with pictures of the Italian and Spanish schools,
representing the mysteries peculiar to the place,--the Virgin and Child,
after Raphael; the Annunciation; the Adoration of the Wise Men; the Coming
of the Shepherds; and all those miracles of mingled grandeur and
innocence. The usual ornaments of the manger are of blue satin,
embroidered with silver. Incense is continually smoking before the cradle
of the Saviour. "I have heard an organ, touched by no ordinary hand,
playing during mass the sweetest and most tender tunes of the best Italian
composers. These concerts charm the Christian Arab, who, leaving his
camels to feed, repairs, like the shepherds of old, to Bethlehem, to adore
the King of Kings in his manger. I have seen this inhabitant of the desert
communicate at the altar of the Magi with a fervour, a piety, a devotion
unknown among the Christians of the West." No place in the world, says
Father Neret, excites more profound devotion. The continual arrival of
caravans from all the Nations of Christendom--the public prayers--the
prostrations--nay, even the richness of the presents sent thither by the
Christian princes--altogether produce feelings in the soul which it is
much easier to conceive than to describe.[104]

It may be added, that the effect of all this is heightened by an
extraordinary contrast; for, on quitting the grotto where you have met
with the riches, the arts, the religion of civilized nations, you find
yourself in a profound solitude, amid wretched Arab huts, among half-naked
savages and faithless Mussulmans. This place is nevertheless the same
where so many miracles were displayed; but this sacred land dares no more
express its joy, and locks within its bosom the recollections of its

Bethlehem has usually shared the vicissitudes of Jerusalem, being, both
from its situation and the nature of the relics which it contains, exposed
to the rage or cupidity of barbarian conquerors. It fell under the power
of the Saracens when led by their victorious calif; but for seven
centuries it has been guarded by a succession of religious persons who, it
has been said, suffer a perpetual martyrdom. In the time of Volney, they
reckoned about six hundred men in this village capable of bearing arms, of
whom about one hundred were Latin Christians. The necessity of uniting for
their common defence against the Bedouins, and the still morn relentless
agents of despotism, has in many instances prevailed over points of faith,
and induced the monks to live on good terms with the Mohammedans. Mr.
Buckingham assures us, that at present the town is equal to Nazareth in
extent, and contains from 1000 to 1500 inhabitants, who are almost wholly
Christians. Dr. Richardson gives the number at 300, an estimate, we should
imagine, considerably below the actual population. The men are robust and
well made, and the women are among the fairest and most handsome, that are
to be seen in Palestine.

The neighbourhood of Bethlehem presents a variety of objects too important
to be passed without a slight notice. The Pools of Solomon, connected, it
is probable, with a scheme for supplying Jerusalem with water; are usually
visited by the more enlightened class of travellers, who combine in their
researches a regard to the arts as well as to the religion of Judea. These
reservoirs are four, in number, being so disposed, says Maundrell, that
the water of the uppermost may descend into the second, and that of the
second into the third. Their figure is quadrangular; the breadth is the
same in all, amounting to about ninety paces. In their length there is
some difference; the first being one hundred and sixty paces long, the
second two hundred and the third two hundred and twenty. They are all
lined with masonry and plastered. The springs whence the pools are
supplied seem to have been secured with great care, having, says the
author of the Journey from Aleppo, "no avenue to them but by a little
hole like to the mouth of a narrow well." Through this hole you descend
directly about four yards, when you come to a chamber forty-five feet long
and twenty-four broad, adjoining to which there is another apartment of
the same kind, but not quite so large. Both these rooms are neatly arched,
and have an air of great antiquity. The water, which rises from four
separate sources, is partly conveyed by a subterranean passage into the
ponds; the remainder being received into an aqueduct of brick pipes, and
carried by many turnings and windings among the mountains to the walls of
Jerusalem. The monks of Bethlehem are perfectly convinced that it was in
allusion to this guarded treasure, so valuable in Palestine, that Solomon
called his beloved spouse a "sealed fountain."

Of the aqueduct here mentioned some traces are still to be detected in the
intermediate space, and denote an acquaintance with the principles of
hydraulics which we could not have expected among Hebrew architects. It
was constructed all along upon the surface of the ground, and framed of
perforated stones let into one another, with a fillet round the cavity, so
contrived as to prevent leakage, and united together with so firm a cement
that they will sometimes sooner break than endure a separation. These
pipes were covered with an arch, or layer of flags, strengthened by the
application of a peculiarly strong mortar; the whole "being endued with
such absolute firmness as if it had been designed for eternity. But the
Turks have demonstrated in this instance, that nothing can be so well
wrought but they are able to destroy it; fur of this strong aqueduct,
which was carried formerly five or six leagues with so vast expense and
labour, you see now only here and there a fragment remaining."[105]

In a valley contiguous to Bethlehem are the remains of a church and
convent which were erected by the pious empress over the place where the
angels appeared to the shepherds. Nothing has survived the desolation to
which every edifice in Palestine has been repeatedly subjected but a small
grotto wherein the heavenly communication was vouchsafed to the simple
keepers of the flock.

On the way back to Jerusalem the traveller is induced to leave the more
direct route, that he may visit the Convent of St. John in the Desert.
This monastery is built over the dwelling where the Baptist is supposed to
have first seen the light; and accordingly, under the altar, the spot on
which he was brought forth is marked by a star of marble bearing this

"Hic precursor Domini Christi natus est."
Here the forerunner of the Lord Christ was born.

The church belonging to this establishment has been described as one of
the best in the Holy Land, having an elegant cupola and a pavement of
Mosaic, with some paintings. But the appearance, nevertheless, is poor and
deserted, as if its votaries were few, and but little concerned in
preserving its ancient grandeur. The account given of it by Sandys will
amuse the reader by the simplicity of the narrative as well as by the deep
interest the good man felt in the various scenes which passed before
him:--"Having travelled about a mile and a halfe farther, we came to the
cave where the baptist is said to have lived from the age of seven until
such time as he went into the wilderness by Jordan, sequestered from the
abode of man, and feeding on such wilde nourishment as these uninhabited
places afforded. This cave is seated on the northern side of a desert
mountaine,--only beholden to the locust-tree,--hewne out of the
precipitating rock, so as difficultly to be ascended or descended to,
entered at the east corner, and receiving light from a window in the side.
At the upper end there is a bench of the selfesame, whereon, they say, he
accustomed to sleeps; of which whoso breaks a piece off stands forthwith
excommunicate. Over this, on a little flat stand the ruins of a monastery,
on the south aide, naturally walled with the steepe of a mountain; from
whence there gusheth a living spring which entereth the rock, and again
bursteth forth beneathe the mouth of the cave,--a place that would make
solitarinesse delightful, and stand in comparison with the turbulent pompe
of cities. This overlooketh a profound valley, on the far side hemmed with
aspiring mountains, whereof some are cut (or naturally so) in degrees like
allies, which would be else unaccessibly fruitlesse; whose levels yet bear
the stumps of decayed vines, shadowed not rarely with olives and locusts.
And surely I think that all or most of those mountains have bin so
husbanded, else could this little country have never sustained such a
multitude of people. After we had fed of such provision as was brought us
from the city by other of the fraternitie that there met us, we turned
towards Jerusalem, leaving the way of Bethlehem on the right-hand, and
that of Emmaus on the left. The first place of note that we met with was
there where once stood the dwelling of Zachary, seated on the side of a
fruitful hill, well stored with olives and vineyards. Hither came the
blessed Virgin to visit her cousin Elisabeth. Here died Elisabeth, and
here, in a grot, on the aide of a vault or chapell, lies buried; over
which a goodly church war erected, together with a monastery, whereof now
little standeth but a part of the walls, which offer to the view some
fragments of painting, which show that the rest have been exquisit. Beyond
and lower is Our Lady's Fountaine (so called of the inhabitants), which
maintaineth a little current thorow the neighbouring valley. Near this, in
the bottome and uttermost extent thereof, there standeth a temple, once
sumptuous, now desolate, built by Helena, and dedicated to St. John
Baptist, in the place where Zachary had another house, possest, as the
rest, by the beastly Arabians, who defile it with their cattell, and
employ to the basest of uses."[106]

It is a point still unsettled, whether the food of him who was sent to
prepare the way consisted of fruit or of insects; the name locust being
indiscriminately applied to either, and both being used by the inhabitants
of Palestine. There is less doubt in regard to the opinions of the early
Christians, who were unanimous in the belief that the Baptist lived on the
produce of a particular tree which still abounds in the desert. Nay, the
friars at the present day assert, that the very plants which yielded
sustenance to the holy recluse continue to flourish in their ancient
vigour; and the popish pilgrims, says Mr. Maundrell, who dare not be wiser
than such blind guides, gather the fruit of them, and carry it away with
much devotion.

But we must not permit the interesting associations of Bethlehem to detain
us any longer in its vicinity. We proceed now towards the extremity of the
Dead Sea; whence, after having visited the most remarkable scenes on its
western shore,--the mouth of the Jordan and the position of Jericho,--we
shall return to the capital by a different route.

After having satisfied his curiosity in church and convent, the traveller
turns his face southward to Tekoa and Hebron, those remoter villages of
the Holy Land. The former, which was built by Rehoboam, and is
distinguished as the birthplace of Amos the prophet, presents considerable
ruins, and even some remains of architecture. It appears to have stood
upon a hill, which Pococke describes as being about half a mile in length
and a furlong broad. On the north-eastern corner there are fragments of an
old building, supposed to have been a fortress, while about half-way up
the accent there are similar indications of a church now in a state of
complete dilapidation. There is preserved, however, a large font of an
octagon form, composed of red and white marble; as also pieces of broken
pillars consisting of the same material.

Farther towards the south, various manifestations present themselves of
ancient civilization, the traces of which are most distinctly marked by
places of worship and numerous strongholds. The traveler just named
mentions a ruined castle called Creightoun, situated on the side of a
steep hill, and a church dedicated to St. Pantaleone. At a little distance
there is an immense grotto, which is said on one occasion to have
contained 30,000 men; and hence it is conjectured to be one of those
retreats in the fastnesses of Engedi to which David fled from the pursuit
of Saul. About two miles farther, in a south-eastern direction, is the
Mount of Bethulia, near a village of the same name; a position which is
thought to agree with that of Beth-haccerem, specified by Jeremiah as a
proper place for a beacon, where the children of Benjamin were to sound
the trumpet in Tekoa.[107]

There is a tradition that the knights of Jerusalem, during the Holy War,
held this strong post forty years after the capital had fallen. It is a
single hill, and very high; and the top of it appears like a large mount
formed by art, being defended by a double line of fortifications and
several towers, which in a rude state of warfare might be pronounced
almost impregnable. At the foot of an eminence towards the north there are
the remains of a magnificent church as well as of other buildings. On a
slope a little farther west there is a cistern connected with a pond,
which appears to have had an island in it, and probably some structure
suited to the supply of water. These works were also encompassed with a
double wall; and it is said that two aqueducts may still be perceived
terminating in the basin, one from the Sealed Fountain of Solomon, and
another from the hilly district which stretches between Bethlehem and

In reference to the tradition that the knights of Jerusalem held the
garrison of Bethulia forty years, Captain Mangles remarks, that the place
is too small to have contained even half the number of men which would
have been requisite to make any stand in such a country; and the ruins,
though they may be those of a place once defended by Franks, appear to
have had an earlier origin, as the architecture seems to be decidedly
Roman. There can be little doubt, indeed, that it is one of the works of
Herod the Great; and its distance does not differ much from that of
Herodium, which is described by Josephus as being about sixty furlongs
from the metropolis. The delineation of the hill, too, by the same
historian, corresponds with the Mount of the Franks; and when he adds that
water was conveyed to it at a great expense, we cannot permit ourselves to
question the identity of Herodium and the fortress of Bethulia.[108]

Hebron, Habroun, or, according to the Arabic orthography followed by the
moderns, El Hhalil, is considerably removed from the usual track of
pilgrims and tourists. An accident or quarrel once excited the indignation
of the inhabitants against the Franks, who during a long course of time
were dissuaded by the Monks at Jerusalem from extending their researches
beyond Bethlehem. Sandys could only report, apparently on the information
of others, that Hebron was reduced to ruins; but he adds, there is a
little village seated in the field of Machpelah, "where standeth a goodly
temple, erected over the burying-cave of the patriarchs by Helena, the
mother of Constantine, converted now into a mosque." Without minutely
analyzing the topography of this rather credulous author, we may repeat
the assurance which he gives relative to the existence of the imperial
monument dedicated to the memory of Abraham and his immediate descendants.
M. Burckhardt, who saw it in 1807, bears testimony to the fact that the
sepulchre, once a Greek church, is now appropriated to the worship of
Mohammed. The ascent to it is by a large and fine staircase that leads to
a long gallery, the entrance to which is by a small court. Towards the
left is a portico resting upon square pillars The vestibule of the temple
contains two rooms; the one being the tomb of Abraham, the other that of
Sarah. In the body of the church, between two large pillars on the right,
is seen a small recess, in which is the sepulchre of Isaac, and in a
similar one upon the left is that of his wife. On the opposite side of the
court is another vestibule, which has also two rooms, being respectively
the tomb of Jacob and of his spouse. At the extremity of the portico, upon
the right-hand, is a door which leads to a sort of long gallery that still
serves for a mosque; and passing from thence is observed another room
containing the ashes of Joseph, which are said to have been carried
thither by the people of Israel. All the sepulchres of the patriarchs are
covered with rich carpets of green silk, magnificently embroidered with
gold; those of their wives are red, embroidered in like manner. The
sultans of Constantinople furnish these carpets, which are renewed from
time to time. M. Burckhardt counted nine, one over another, upon the
sepulchre of Abraham. The rooms also which contain the tombs are covered
with rich carpets; the entrance to them is guarded by iron gates, and
wooden doors plated with silver, having halts and padlocks of the same
metal. More than a hundred persons are employed in the service of this
temple; affording, with the decorations and wealth lavished upon the
structure, a remarkable contrast to the simple life of the venerable man
to whose memory it is meant to do honour.

If the description given by Sandys in the seventeenth century was correct,
we must conclude that Hebron has subsequently enjoyed a period of
improvement. According to the traveller whom we have just quoted, it
contains about four hundred families, of which about a fourth part are
Jews. It is situated on the slope of a mountain; has a strong castle; can
boast abundance of provisions, a considerable number of shops, and some
neat houses. The whole of the country between Tekoa and Hebron is finer
and better cultivated than in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem; while the
sides of the hills, instead of being naked and dreary, are richly studded
with the oak, the arbutus, the Scottish fir, and a variety of

Beyond this point the information of Europeans ceased until about twelve
years ago, when the desert which stretches between the Sepulchre of
Abraham and the Dead Sea was entered by Mr. Bankes, Mr. Legh, and Captains
Irby and Mangles. After a journey of three days from Hebron towards the
south, the travellers were informed of extensive ruins at Abdi in the
Wilderness. On turning their faces to Kerek, the object of their search,
the road led in the direction of the Lake Asphaltites, through a country
which, although well cultivated, was extremely uninteresting. They
observed a variety of ruins, with some subterranean tombs in the
neighbourhood, denoting the existence of an ancient town; when, after
having advanced eight or nine miles farther, they found themselves on the
borders of an extensive desert, entirely abandoned to the wandering
Bedouins. Near the point at which this change of aspect begins is a place
called by the natives Al-baid, where there is a fountain in the rock and a
pool of greenish water.

The travellers, at some distance from this halting-place, arrived at a
camp of Jellaheen Arabs, who told them that in years of scarcity they were
accustomed to retire into Egypt,--a practice which seems to have been
handed down from the days of the patriarchs, or dictated by the same
necessity that compelled the family of Jacob to adopt a similar expedient.
At the distance of eight hours from Al-baid, in a deep barren valley, are
the ruins of an old Turkish fort, standing on a solitary rock to the left
of the track. Farther on the cliff is excavated, at a considerable height,
into loopholes; where it is probable a barrier was formerly established
for levying a certain duty on goods and travellers. The place is called El
Zowar, or El Ghor. From hence a gravelly ravine, studded with bushes of
acacia and other shrubs, conducts to the great plain at the southern
extremity of the Dead Sea; bounded at the distance of eight or nine miles
by a sandy cliff at least seventy feet high, which forms a barrier to the
lake when at its greatest elevation. The existence of that long valley
which extends from Asphaltites to the AElanitic Gulf was first ascertained
by Burckhardt; and the prolongation of it, as connected with the hollow of
the Jordan, has been considered as a proof that the river at one time
discharged its waters into the eastern branch of the Red Sea. The change
is attributed to that great volcanic convulsion mentioned in the
nineteenth chapter of Genesis, which, interrupting the course of the
river, converted into a lake the fertile plain occupied by the cities of
Adma, Zeboim, Sodom, and Gomorrah, and reduced all the valley southward to
the condition of a sandy waste.[109]

But, having reached the shores of the Dead Sea by an unfrequented path, we
have no guide to the examination of the wild country which rises on either
side of it; we therefore prefer the more wonted route which leads to its
northern border, near the mouth of the Jordan and the site of the ancient
Jericho. Avoiding, at the same time, the track of the caravan from
Jerusalem through the hilly desert which intervenes, we shall accompany
the Vicomte de Chateaubriand from Bethlehem through the interesting Valley
of Santa Saba.

On leaving the Church of the Nativity the traveller pursues his course
eastward, through a vale where Abraham is said to have fed his flocks.
This pastoral tract, however, is soon succeeded by a range of hilly
ground, so extremely barren that not even a root of moss is to be seen
upon it. Descending the farther side of this meager platform two lofty
towers are perceived, rising from a deep valley, marking the site of the
Convent of Santa Saba. Nothing can be more dreary than the situation of
this religious house. It is erected in a ravine, sunk to the depth of
several hundred feet, where the brook Kedron has formed a channel, which
is dry the greater part of the year. The church is on a little eminence at
the bottom of the dell; Whence the buildings of the monastery rise by
perpendicular flights of steps and passages hewn out of the rock, and thus
ascend to the ridge of the hill, where they terminate is the two square
towers already mentioned. From hence you descry the sterile summits of the
mountains both towards the east and west; the course of the stream from
Jerusalem; and the numerous grottoes formerly occupied by Christian

In advancing, the aspect of the country still continues the same, white
and dusty, without tree, herbage, or even moss. At length the road seeks a
lower level, and approaches the rocky border which bounds the Valley of
the Jordan; when, after a toilsome journey of ten or twelve hours, the
traveller sees stretching out before his eyes the Dead Sea and the line of
the river. But the landscape, however grand, admits of no comparison to
the scenery of Europe. No fields waving with corn,--no plains covered with
rich pasture present themselves from the mountains of Lower Palestine.
Figure to yourself two long chains of mountains, running in a parallel
direction from north to south, without breaks and without undulations. The
eastern or Arabian chain is the highest; and, when seen at the distance of
eight or ten leagues, you would take it to be a prodigious perpendicular
wall, resembling Mount Jura in its form and azure colour. Not one summit,
not the smallest peak can be distinguished; you merely perceive slight
inflections here and there, "as if the hand of the painter who drew this
horizontal line along the sky had trembled in some places."

The mountains of Judea form the range on which the observer stands as he
looks down on the Lake Asphaltites. Less lofty and more unequal than the
eastern chain, it differs from the other in its nature also; exhibiting
heaps of chalk and sand, whose form, it is said, bears some resemblance to
piles of arms, waving standards, or the tents of a camp pitched on the
border of a plain. The Arabian side, on the contrary, presents nothing but
black precipitous rocks, which throw their lengthened shadow over waters
of the Dead Sea. The smallest bird of heaven would not find among these
crags a single blade of grass for its sustenance; every thing announces
the country of a reprobate people, and well fitted to perpetuate the
punishment denounced against Ammon and Moab.

The valley confined by these two chains of mountains displays a soil
resembling the bottom of a sea which has long retired from its bed, a
beach covered with salt, dry mud, and moving sands, furrowed, as it were,
by the waves. Here and there stunted shrubs vegetate with difficulty upon
this inanimate tract; their leaves are covered with salt, and their bark
has a smoky smell and taste. Instead of villages you perceive the ruins of
a few towers. In the middle of this valley flows a discoloured river,
which reluctantly throws itself into the pestilential lake by which it is
engulfed. Its course amid the sands can be distinguished only by the
willows and the reeds that border it; among which the Arab lies in ambush
to attack the traveller and to murder the pilgrim.[110]

M. Chateaubriand remarks, that when you travel in Judea the heart is at
first filled with profound melancholy. But when, passing from solitude to
solitude, boundless space opens before you, this feeling wears off by
degrees, and you experience a secret awe, which, so far from depressing
the soul, imparts life and elevates the genius. Extraordinary appearances
everywhere proclaim a land teeming with miracles. The burning sun, the
towering eagle, the barren fig-tree, all the poetry, all the pictures of
Scripture are here. Every name commemorates a mystery,--every grotto
announces a prediction,--every hill reechoes the accents of a prophet. God
himself has spoken in these regions, dried up rivers, rent the rocks, and
opened the grave. "The desert still appears mute with terror; and you
would imagine that it had never presumed to interrupt the silence since it
heard the awful voice of the Eternal."

The celebrated lake which occupies the site of Sodom and Gomorrah is
called in Scripture the Dead Sea. Among the Greeks and Latins it is known
by the name of Asphaltites; the Arabs denominate it Bahar Loth, or Sea of
Lot. M. de Chateaubriand does not agree with those who conclude it to be
the crater of a volcano; for, having seen Vesuvius, Solfatara, the Peak of
the Azores, and the extinguished volcanoes of Auvergne, he remarked in all
of them the same characters; that is to say, mountains excavated in the
form of a tunnel, lava, and ashes, which exhibited incontestable proof of
the agency of fire. The Salt Sea, on the contrary, is a lake of great
length, curved like a bow, placed between two ranges of mountains, which
have no mutual coherence of form, no similarity of composition. They do
not meet at the two extremities of the lake; but while the one continues
to bound the valley of Jordan, and to run northward as far as Tiberias,
the other stretches away to the south till it loses itself in the sands of
Yemen. There are, it is true, hot springs, quantities of bitumen, sulphur,
and asphaltos; but these of themselves are not sufficient to attest the
previous existence of a volcano. With respect, indeed, to the ingulfed
cities, if we adopt the idea of Michaelis and of Buesching, physics may be
admitted to explain the catastrophe without offence to religion. According
to their views, Sodom was built upon a mine of bitumen,--a fact which is
ascertained by the testimony of Moses and Josephus, who speak of wells of
naphtha in the Valley of Siddim. Lightning kindled the combustible mass,
and the guilty cities sank in the subterraneous conflagration. Malte Brun
ingeniously suggests that Sodom and Gomorrah themselves may have been
built of bituminous stones, and thus have been set in flames by the fire
from heaven.

According to Strabo, there were thirteen towns swallowed up in the Lake
Asphaltites; Stephen of Byzantium reckons eight; the book of Genesis,
while it names five as situated in the Vale of Siddim, relates the
destruction of two only: four are mentioned in Deuteronomy, and five are
noticed by the author of Ecclesiasticus. Several travellers, and among
others Troilo and D'Arvieux, assure us, that they observed fragments of
walls and palaces in the Dead Sea. Maundrell himself was not so fortunate,
owing, he supposes, to the height of the water; but he relates that the
Father Guardian and Procurator of Jerusalem, both men of sense and
probity, declared that they had once actually seen one of these ruins;
that it was so near the shore, and the lake so shallow, that they,
together with some Frenchmen, went to it, and found there several pillars
and other fragments of buildings. The ancients speak more positively on
this subject. Josephus, who employs a poetical expression, says, that he
perceived on the shores of the Dead Sea the shades of the overwhelmed
cities. Strabo gives a circumference of sixty stadia to the ruins of
Sodom, which are also mentioned by Tacitus.[111]

It is surprising that no pains have been taken by recent travellers to
throw light upon this interesting point, or even to learn whether the
periodical rise and fall of the lake affords any means for determining the
accuracy of the ancient historians and geographers. Should the Turks ever
give permission, and should it be found practicable, to convey a vessel
from Jaffa to this inland sea, some curious discoveries would certainly be
made. Is it not amazing that, notwithstanding the enterprise of modern
science, the ancients were better acquainted with the properties, and even
the dimensions of the Lake Asphaltites, than the most learned nations of
Europe in our own times? It is described by Aristotle, Strabo, Diodorus
Siculus, Pliny, Tacitus, Solinus, Josephus, Galen, and Dioscorides. The
Abbot of Santa Saba is the only person for many centuries who has made the
tour of the Dead Sea. From his account we learn, through the medium of
Father Nau, that at its extremity it is separated, as it were, into two
parts, and that there is a way by which you may walk across it, being only
mid-leg deep, at least in summer; that there the land rises, and bounds
another small lake of a circular or rather an oval figure, surrounded with
plains and hills of salt; and that the neighbouring country is peopled by
innumerable Arabs.[112]

It is known that seven considerable streams fall into this basin, and
hence it was long supposed that it must discharge its superfluous stores
by subterranean channels into the Mediteranean or the Red Sea. This
opinion is now everywhere relinquished, in consequence of the learned
remarks on the effect of evaporation in a hot climate, published by Dr.
Halley many years ago; the justness of which were admitted by Dr. Shaw,
though he calculated that the Jordan alone threw into the lake every day
more than six million tuns of water. It is deserving of notice, that the
Arabian philosophers, if we may believe Mariti, had anticipated Halley in
his conclusions in regard to the absorbent power of a dry atmosphere.[113]

The marvellous properties usually assigned to the Dead Sea by the earlier
travellers have vanished upon a more rigid investigation. It is now known
that bodies sink or float upon it, in proportion to their specific
gravity; and that, although the water is so dense as to be favourable to
swimmers, no security is found against the common accident of drowning.
Josephus indeed asserts that Vespasian, in order to ascertain the fact now
mentioned, commanded a number of his slaves to be bound hand and foot and
thrown into the deepest part of the lake; and that, so far from any of
them sinking, they all maintained their place on the surface until it
pleased the emperor to have them taken out. But this anecdote, although
perfectly consistent with truth, does not justify all the inferences which
have been drawn from it. "Being willing to make an experiment," says
Maundrell, "I went into it, and found that it bore up my body in swimming
with an uncommon force; but as for that relation of some authors, that men
wading into it were buoyed up to the top as soon as they got as deep as
the middle, I found it, upon trial, not true."[114]

The water of this sea has been frequently analyzed both in France and
England. The specific gravity of it, according to Malte Brun, is 1.211,
that of fresh water being 1.000. It is perfectly transparent. The
applications of tests, or reagents, prove that it contains the muriatic
and sulphuric acids. There is no alumina in it, nor does it appear that it
is saturated with marine salt or muriate of soda. It holds in solution the
following substances, and in the proportions here stated:

Muriate of lime 3.920
Magnesia 10.246
Soda 10.360
Sulphate of lime .054

We need not add that such a liquid must be equally salt and bitter. As
might be expected, too, it is found to deposit its salts in copious
incrustations, and to prove a ready agent in all processes of
petrifaction. Clothes, boots, and hats, if dipped in the lake, or
accidentally wetted with its water, are found, when dried, to be covered
with a thick coating of these minerals. Hence, we cannot be surprised to
hear that the Lake Asphaltites does not present any variety of fish.
Mariti asserts that it produces none, and even that those which are
carried into it by the rapidity of the Jordan perish almost immediately
upon being immerged in its acrid waves. A few shell-snails constitute the
sole tenants of its dreary shores, unmixed either with the helix or the

It was formerly believed that the approach to Asphaltites was fatal to
birds, and that, like another lake of antiquity, it had the power of
drawing them down from the wing into its poisonous waters. This dream,
propagated by certain visionary travellers, is now completely discredited.
Flocks of swallows may be seen skimming along its surface with the utmost
impunity, while the absence of all other species is easily explained by a
glance at the naked hills and barren plains, which supply no vegetable

The historian Josephus, who measured the Dead Sea, found that in length it
extended about five hundred and eighty stadia, and in breadth one hundred
and fifty,--according to our standard, somewhat more than seventy miles by
nineteen. A recent traveller, to whose unpublished journal we have
repeatedly alluded, remarks that the lake, when he visited it, was sunk or
hollow, and that the banks had been recently under water, being still very
miry and difficult to pass. The shores were covered with dry wood, some of
it good timber, which they say is brought by the Jordan from the country
of the Druses. "The water is pungently salt, like oxymuriate of soda. It
is incredibly buoyant. G---- bathed in it, and when he lay still on his
back or belly, he floated with one-fourth at least of his whole body above
the water. He described the sensation as extraordinary, and more like
lying on a feather-bed than floating on water. On the other hand, he found
the greatest resistance in attempting to move through it: it smarted his
eyes excessively. I put a piece of stick in: it required a good deal of
pressure to make it sink, and when let go it bounded out again like a
blown bladder. The water was clear, and of a yellowish tinge, which might
be from the colour of the stones at bottom, or from the hazy atmosphere.
There were green shrubs down to the water's edge in one place, and nothing
to give an idea of any thing blasting in the neighbourhood of the sea; the
desert character of the soil extending far beyond the possibility of being
affected by its influence."[115]

The bitumen supplied by this singular basin affords the means of a
comfortable livelihood to a considerable number of Arabs who frequent its
shores. The Pasha of Damascus, who finds it a valuable article of
commerce, purchases at a small price the fruit of their labours, or
supplies them with food, clothing, and a few ornaments in return for it.
In ancient times it found a ready market in Egypt, where it was used in
large quantities for embalming the dead: it was also occasionally employed
as a substitute for stone, and appeared in the walls of houses and even of

Associated with the Dead Sea, every reader has heard of the apples of
Sodom, a species of fruit which, extremely beautiful to the eye, is bitter
to the taste, and full of dust. Tacitus, in the fifth book of his history,
alludes to this singular fact, but, as usual, in language so brief and
ambiguous, that no light can be derived from his description, _atra et
inania velut in cinerem vanescunt_. Some travellers, unable to discover
this singular production, have considered it merely as a figure of speech,
depicting the deceitful nature of all vicious enjoyments. Hasselquist
regards it as the production of a small plant called _Solanum melongena_,
a species of nightshade, which is to be found abundantly in the
neighbourhood of Jericho. He admits that the apples are sometimes full of
dust; but this, he maintains, appears only when the fruit is attacked by a
certain insect, which converts the whole of the inside into a kind of

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