Today marks Orthodox Christian Holy Friday, aka Good Friday. Three years ago I spent the day in the city where its most famous event took place. Here are the photos.
After waking in the morning, we joined the masses headed down to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The church was still locked, but would be ceremoniously unlocked by the Muslim doorkeepers (no, seriously - and that's a good article, by the way).
Herman beat Markos and me down to the church.
Here come the Patriarch, bishops and the doorkeepers.
I believe the men in the fezs are a sort of bodyguard to the Patriarch.
The doorkeeper is to the right of the Patriarch.
He dutifully unlocks the church, and we get to enter.
I forget how, but I somehow managed to be one of the first ten people to go inside the Holy Sepulchre (the tomb of Christ) itself.
Due to the sheer numbers of the pilgrims and the fact that we actually wanted to go upstairs afterward to Golgotha, all of us pilgrims ran at full sprint, which was extremely inappropriate (apologies to the Coptic Christians whose chapel on the backside of the tomb we essentially ran through, although I slowed to a halt at the last second). Lord have mercy.
This photo is taken inside the antechamber, the Chapel of Angels.
Chapel of Angels
Chapel of Angels, with the doorway to the tomb itself. I didn't take a photo inside this time because there were three people inside at a time (and that's unbelievably cramped). Here's what it looks like, however.
As I exit, Markos waits to enter (as does the massive and ever-growing line).
The entrance / exit to the Holy Sepulchre.
We didn't expect to get upstairs to Golgotha, because of the crowds. By the grace of God, not only did we get to venerate at the Holy Sepulchre (on our first and only chance of doing so), but we got to be front and center at the site of the crucifixion on the date remembering it. Pretty extraordinary, especially for an American convert like myself.
The reader (deacon? priest? monk?) during the royal hours.
Royal hours service (I'm pretty sure, despite the language barrier - the language being Greek, not Arabic).
Markos and Herman await the procession of the cross behind Israeli police barriers (something we would become all to familiar with the following day - that's foreshadowing for ya).
The procession awaits...
A priest (monk? hieromonk?) waits next to Golgotha.
The cross is finally carried upstairs and in.
I don't know if this was part of the scheduled festivities, but a large group of (I believe) Russian pilgrims brought their crosses in behind.
Looking downstairs at the sheer number of pilgrims, we then realized how very fortunate we were to be able to see the service. Many others were trying but were unable - and I certainly don't say that gloatingly! Space was at a premium even inside one of the biggest churches in Christendom.
By the way, the lamps at the bottom right are over the Stone of Unction, and down the hall at the top of the photo and just to the right lies the Holy Sepulchre, to give you a sense of the short distance Christ's body was taken after His crucifixion.
We ducked inside St. James' Chapel, out the front door and just to the right of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
This was an oasis of calm from the sheer volume of humanity. Believe me, I was beyond happy to see so many fellow Christians in one space, but everyone needs a little space now and then. :-)
The courtyard of the church, which still had crowds although most were inside.
Herman and yours truly, with the door to St. James' Chapel to our right and the door to the Church behind us.
Something I never did when I was here in 2007 was to go upstairs to the roof (a different part of the roof than the previous day) to the Ethiopian section. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is technically not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions (like in Greece, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Jerusalem, etc.), but their core beliefs are for the most part similar to our own (it is the differences that have separated us many centuries ago). The pious were at prayer when we entered.
The rooftop Ethiopian sector.
Markos in the Ethiopian sector.
I want to say that this is a Syriac Orthodox chapel (like the Ethiopians, not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox churches).
I barely remember going down here, and have literally no recollection of the significance. I don't even remember if this is on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Later on, we went down to the Temple Mount (that's the Al Aqsa Mosque on the left, with the road to my favorite Jerusalem gate, Dung Gate, to the right).
The Dome of the Rock, towering above the Western / Wailing Wall.
The Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. This is the men's section...
...and the much smaller women's section is to the right behind the fence.
Not only was I sporting my paper yarmulke, but in honor of the playoffs I had on my Sharks shirt. Too bad the President's Trophy-winning Sharks would get bounced by the Ducks in round 1.
Markos and Herman with their paper yarmulkes.
Off topic = I recently found out that I'm part Jewish (not kidding). Well, not religiously, obviously.
One last look at the Western Wall.
The view from the city walls as we walk to Mt. Zion.
The Hagia Maria Sion Abbey, built over the traditional location of the dormition (death) of the Virgin Mary.
Although it isn't Orthodox, we still wanted to go inside (how could you not after seeing the exterior?).
One of the many chapels inside.
An icon of the dormition.
Herman next to the statue of the Virgin.
Many faithful had been in recently.
And now for something completely different = the traditional Tomb of David, also on Mt. Zion. One of the holiest places in Judaism.
Herman inside the upper room, aka the site of the Last Supper (even if the building is somewhat newer, it has always been held to be around this location on Mt. Zion).
The room was turned into a mosque before being converted to a pilgrimage site. It's pretty bare-bones.
Markos and the Abbey.
One more stop on Mt. Zion = Oskar Schindler's grave.
Very moving - and yes I put a rock.
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, commemorating St. Peter's repentance after denying Christ three times leading up to His crucifixion.
Somewhere I hadn't strolled much = the Armenian Quarter (note the national flags).
Back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Great Vespers.
Inside the Catholicon, opposite the Holy Sepulchre itself.
The Holy Sepulchre itself.
An Armenian chapel downstairs in the church.
The holiest place in the world.
We exited again and walked around the market and generally relaxed for a bit.
The Lamentations procession from St. James' Chapel, in the evening.
I found a good spot to take photos, right next to the cameramen at the door to St. James'.
Coming up next = The Holy Fire.