Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Letter IX
The Stone of Unction. The Holy Sepulchre. The Chapel of the Angel. Hill of Calvary. The hole in which the Cross was planted. House of Pilate. "Behold the Man!" The true Cross. A terrible Massacre. Turkish Guards. Christianity despised by Jews and Mohammedans. Farewell to Jerusalem. -- Gala day. Arab Agriculture. Shechem. Ferocious People.
The Olive. ^amaria.
PALESTINE, MARCH STH, 1873. Editor Deseret News:
Among the variety of objects which claimed our attention while at Jerusalem, was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is an extensive building, with a host of sacred relics and holy places, grouped together within a few yards of one another; among others, the place of the Savior's crucifixion; the spot where His body was anointed for burial; where the Virgin stood and witnessed the cracifixion; the place where His body was wrapped in linen clothes; the rent in the rock produced by the earthquake; the place where the soldiers cast lots for His raiment; the column to which He was bound when scourged; the place where He was stripped by the soldiers; and the prison in which He was incarcerated previous to being led to the place of crucifixion, etc.
In front of this building is a small area, occupied by a sort of bazar for the sale of sacred relics, and used also as a place of gathering for all classes of pilgrims. Within this building, near the door, surrounded by a low rail- ing, is the Stone of Unction, which consists of a marble slab, on which the body of the Savior is said to have been anointed for the burial. This, we were told, however, is not the real stone, as that was concealed underneath to prevent devout pilgrims from carrying it off or wearing it away by con- stant kissing, as was the case with the bronze toe at St. Peter's, Eome. Several lamps are suspended over this sacred spot, and kept constantly burning.
We proceeded to the apartment appropriated to the Holy Sepulchre, twenty-six feet long by eighteen broad, ornamented by a dome. We entered first a small apartment called the Chapel of the Angel, where it is said he sat upon the stone which had been rolled away from the door of the
sepulchre. A portion of this stone stands upon a low pedestal, though it is asserted that the real stone was stolen by the Armenians, and is now exhib- ited in their chapel. From this apartment a low narrow door opens into the vault of the sepulchre. It has a dome roof sustained by short marble columns. The place where the Savior's body is said to have lain, is covered by a marble slab, considerably worn at the edges by the continued kissing of pilgrims. A large number of gold and silver lamps are suspended OTer it, and kept constantly burning. It is fitted up as an altar; above it are costly gifts, thickly set with precious stones, presented by different sovereigns of Europe.
A Greek priest was officiating when we entered, who signified his recognition of our presence by scattering sweet perfumery in great abun- dance over our persons. All pilgrims were sprinkled in like manner, who were constantly crowding in upon their hands and knees, kissing the cold marble, sobbing and bathing it with their tears. This is said to have been hewn in the rock, but we could see no rock the floor, tomb and walls are all marble.
We ascended a flight of steps leading to an apartment or small chapel which is said to cover the Hill of Calvary. Here was shown a rent or hole in the rock, as that in which stood the cross while the Savior hung upon it. Many other places were shown, which it is needless to mention. After leav- ing this building, we went to the House of Pilate, which is said to occupy the same locality as that of the Roman governor; we saw but little, however, to satisfy us of the identity of the Judgment Hall. We came to a building said to cover the place where Jesus came forth wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns, when Pilate exclaimed to the people. Behold the man!" The place was pointed out where the Savior sank under the weight of the cross, when Simon the Cyrenian was compelled to take it up, and bear it after Him; also the spot where Veronica appeared with a napkin to wipe the sweat off the Savior's brow, when His portrait was miraculously impressed upon it. This pretended relic is preserved as one of the chief in the Basilica of St. Peter's at Rome.
Religious enthusiasts of opposite sects vied with each other in search- ing out relics, and places to be reverenced and adored by people of their respective persuasions, performing pilgrimages to the Holy Land, their zeal, in some instances, carrying them beyond the bounds of honesty, to prac- tising deceit and imposition. Many of these places had been remaining for centuries beneath the gradual accumulations of debris, and could net be identified, either by history or tradition; consequently, divine intimations were sought, miraculous tests applied, and other methods resorted to in order to establish their claims to genuineness.
Helena, the mother of Constantine, when about eighty years old, in the fourth century, is said to have been divinely impressed to proceed to Jerusalem and make sacred discoveries to search out the true cross, the holy sepulchre, and other relics and localities connected with the cruci- fixion of the Savior. Accordingly she went to Jerusalem and, enlisting the services of the inhabitants, instituted a search for the cross of the Savior. Digging through the debris, some twenty feet or more, at length three crosses were discovered, together with the tablet, the nails and crown of thorns. The tablet or inscription, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews," being separated from the crosses, therefore the true cross could not be iden- tified. At last a remedy was discovered. A lady of quality was confined upon her bed in Jerusalem, of a fatal disease. The three crosses were suc- cessively presented to her; the two first without effect, but on the approach of the third, she sprang from her dying couch perfectly restored. Thus the identity of the true cross was established. The pillar to which Christ is said to have been bound when He was scourged, is carefully secured, that it may not be stolen by pilgrims, who are only permitted to touch it with a small, round stick, some four feet long or more, kept for this purpose. The stick, after having one end put in contact with the sacred relic, is then kissed by the pilgrims with great fervor and vehemence. While present we witnessed many instances of this fervent and striking devotion.
We visited the reputed Garden of Gethsemane, which belongs to the Latin Church. An opposition one has recently been established by the Greek Church. As soon as the trees have sufficiently grown, and other fixtures remained long enough to impart an ancient and venerable appear- ance, it will then be exhibited to devout pilgrims as the real, genuine Gar- den of Gethsemane.
The low, sunken condition of Christianity in Jerusalem is pretty clearly illustrated in the following description of scenes enacted in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On Easter eve, each successive year, it is pretended that holy fire descends from heaven, lighting up all the lamps in the Holy Sepulchre. On this occasion multitudes of enthusiastic pilgrims are as- sembled from every quarter of the globe, awaiting with burning anxiety to participate in its benefits, and to receive its holy influences. Just before the prescribed moment for this miraculous descent, the Greek Patriarch enters the tomb, alone, and presently gives out, through a hole in the wall, the holy fire, to the eager and excited multitude.
In former years all the churches participated in the performance of these rites, but latterly have desisted, one after another, till, at present, this practice is continued only by the Greek Church, At these extraordinary scenes, very serious accidents frequently occur old men and women
crushed and trampled to pieces, or perhaps quarrels arise between rival sects, resulting in shooting and stabbing one another. In 1834, deplorable and fearful scenes were enacted in that sacred building. While the church way crowded with Christian pilgrims, a contention arose, in which the Turkish guards engaged; the confusion soon became general, and directly grew into a terrible battle. The scene of horror cannot be described. Numbers were bayoneted or knocked down with the butt ends of muskets, and their blood and brains scattered upon the wall and pavement, each seeming intent to destroy his fellow, or save himself from immediate destruction. Many were pulled down and trampled to death while endeavoring to escape from the building. When order was restored, the dead were lying in heaps around, and even upon the Stone of Unction the bodies of the dead were piled up, and in some places the wounded and dead were thrown together promiscuously, one upon another, five feet high or more.
The Turkish government is obliged to keep a guard constantly watch- ing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to prevent these contentions and fightings between the rival Christian churches.
These contradictions, contentions and impositions by the rival Christian sects, in Jerusalem, render the Christian religion a subject of scorn and contempt, both to the Jews and Mohammedans, and it is certainly a matter of serious regret that, in this enlightened age of Christianity, such things should exist in this sacred locality where our holy religion was established, and our Savior martyred .
SYRIA, MARCH HTH, 1873.
Leaving Jerusalem, we ascend by a steep, rocky, winding path to the commanding heights of Mount Scopus, where, turning backward, we take a long, lingering look at the "Holy City" its noble domes, its high, taper- ing minarets, and its surrounding mountains. We descend the mountain into a naked, desolate region, our path lying over rocky plateaus, through deep ravines, and over barren hills covered with loose stones and sharp rocks. A small village is seen away to our left on a lofty hill, flags and streamers flying,
guns firing, and groups of men and women gaily attired, in
open air, rejoicing in the dance. We pass several towns perched among the gray rocks, on the mountain slopes, or crowning the summits of high hills, also several sites of ancient towns overspread with ruins. Sterility and barrenness form the general features of the country. The trees are few, gnarled and stunted, here and there sticking out from rents and holes in the rocks, and broken, decayed terraces, and still clinging to the cliffs.
The second day we found the hills and glens less rugged, the country
improving in general appearance, the soil more fertile and better cultivated. We passed through many winding valleys with landscape beautiful and pic- turesque, the hills terraced from base to summit, supporting vines, fig and olive trees, the scenery enlivened by wild flowers, bright and gay, springing up from the green, luxuriant herbage. The Arab is seen with his primitive plow and diminutive oxen, breaking up his ground; a Bedouin on his fleet steed, with his brass-bound gun suspended over his shoulder, galloping over the hills; the Mussulman, with his wives and children, scantily dressed, plucking the weeds from his patch of grain; peasants passing in their gay dresses of red and green; long strings of mules, donkeys and camels, wind- ing along the tortuous path; the shepherd preceding his flock of sheep and goafs, leading them along the mountain slopes or standing with them clus- tered around a favorite fountain.
We are now approaching Nablous, a modern town on the site of the ancient Shechem. a name familiar to the Biblical reader. Clambering up a steep, rocky path, we arrive at the crest of a lofty ridge, where we enjoy a lovely, romantic scene the finest and most pleasing since leaving Jeru- salem. Before us lies an undulating plain, stretching far away northward, encircled by picturesque hills, no object on its surface to break the view; around its borders are small groves of orange trees, and here and there clumps and rows of olives, giving it the appearance of a European park. The villages here as elsewhere, instead of being located on the plain, are, for security, built on the crest of steep hills, or high up on the acclivities.
The people we now meet appear different in character, manners and dress from those occupying the country we have passed. They look daring and ferocious, ready to commence hostilities on the slightest provo- cation. Armed cap-a-pie with a flintlock shot-gun, a huge dagger sticking in front of their girdle, pistols and a large knobheaded club, they seem pleased in displaying these arms, and, judging from their sturdy, athletic appearance, I have no doubt they could employ them to great advantage. We frequently met these fellows armed in this manner, driving along a miserable looking, half-starved donkey, loaded probably with all they pos- sessed, except arms and shabby clothing. There is, however, a cause for this oddity. A bloody feud, most likely, exists between one family and some other family, which was commenced hundreds of years ago by their ancestors. Some person was killed, and one of that person's family killed another in return; then another was. killed in revenge, and thus it has con- tinued until the present. Every member of the family is in danger, and lives in dread any moment the avenger of blood may pounce upon him. Therefore he is armed at all hours and in all places when leading his flocks on the mountain, his donkey on the road, or when plowing in the field,
ofttimes having to flee from house and home, and abide with strangers. This fearful state of things arises from the following law of the Koran: "O, true believers, the law of retaliation is ordained to you for the slain the free shall die for the free." I suppose Mahomet drew this from the Old Testament, but failed to make the corresponding merciful arrangements "cities of refuge."
The second night we camped in a lovely spot, in the suburbs of Nab- lous. This city, known in Bible history as Shechem, possesses the most charming and picturesque scenery of any site in Palestine. It is situated along the base of Mount Gerizim, on the south side of a verdant valley, sparkling with streams and fountains, and decorated with olive trees, gar- dens and fruit orchards. The cliffs, hills and mountain slopes, supporting terraces, rising one above another in regular gradation, growing narrow strips of waving grain, together with fig, olive and orange trees. The valley is clothed in the richest foliage and vegetation. Viewed from different points, the city, with its white-domed buildings, and its mosques and towering minarets, presents a charming picture. Nablous contains eight thousand inhabitants, only five hundred of whom are Christians. The buildings are constructed chiefly of stone; in style and general appearance they are similar to those in Jerusalem. The streets, as in all other towns in Palestine, are narrow, crooked and extremely filthy. The houses project over and cover them, being supported on arches. The inhabitants have the reputation of mistreating strangers, especially ladies. Prompted by curiosity, no doubt, they visited our tents by multitudes. In turn, we per- ambulated their filthy city, experiencing no illtreatment.
In Shechem, as we learn from sacred history, Simeon and Levi avenged the dishonor of their sister Dinah, by murdering the whole population of the city, having first decoyed them into complete disability of defending themselves. It was the first spot where Abraham pitched his tent in Canaan "Place of Shechem at the oak of Moreh." Jacob, also, on his return from Mesopotamia, pitched his tent in this then pastoral region. This is the place where Jacob sent his favorite son, Joseph, to look after his brethren. "A certain man found him wandering in the field," and directed him to Dothan, about twelve miles north, where they had removed. Here Rehoboam was proclaimed king over all Israel; and not long after- wards the ten tribes revolted, and made Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, king, and established Shechem as the capital.
Soap, cotton and oil are the chief productions at Nablous. The olive is extensively cultivated, and is seen around every village and hamlet Clothed in midwinter, with their soft, gray foliage, they always impart beauty and add an air of cheerfulness to the landscape. The olive is slow
in its growth, requiring from twelve to fifteen years before it begins to pay the expense of cultivation. It is long-lived one thousand years and upwards. The older ones have a remarkably venerable appearance, with their great gnarled and furrowed stems, especially when representing the last stages of life's decline. Usually the fruit ripens in November and December, and is beaten off with long sticks, and gathered by women and children, who carry it away in baskets on their heads to the press, where the oil is extracted by an apparatus quite rude and primitive. The berries are placed in a round cavity excavated in a rock, when a huge stone is rolled over them by oxen or manual force. The pulp is bound up in mats, placed under the press, which is forced down by a screw or heavy beam. The liquor is partially heated,. the oil is then skimmed and put into skins or earthen jars.
From Nablous (Shechem) to Samaria, our next principal point, we pass through a lovely country over terraced hills, and winding through partially cultivated valleys, with fields of grain two-thirds grown and orchards of figs and apricots. Small villages are seen crowning summits of distant hills or perched high up their rocky sides, seldom appearing in the rich vales below.
Samaria contains about sixty buildings, with four hundred inhabitants. It occupies a narrow, rocky plateau, midway up the side of the steep, lofty hill. In the midst of a gentle shower, we rode up to the village through a narrow, winding path, climbing over large boulders and forked, sloping, conical, shelving and slippery rocks. Halting a few minutes, we then ascended to the summit, on which is an open area, formerly surrounded by columns, only a few of which are now standing. In descending the moun- tain, we reached a place on its slope, covered with magnificent ruins a quantity of columns, some standing, others broken and lying in fragments over the -ground. Sixty or more of these pillars, two feet in diameter, eighteen in height, are standing without their capitals, deeply sunk in the ground. It is supposed that these columns were designed to decorate the principal street of the ancient city. Large quantities of hewn stone are strewed around over the plowed fields and orchards in the valley below, and piled into the terraces which partially encircle the hill.
In viewing these immense ruins, I was reminded of the fearful predic- tion of Micah: "I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard, and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof."