Of all the venerated religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, most important to the Christians and an important pilgrimage target is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where purportedly Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected. Today the Church is the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, but interestingly the key to the site is actually held by a Muslim caretaker. This is because rivalry among Armenian, Greek and other Christian factions have long created problems and tension among Christian. Usually at stake are changes to the church’s exterior, furnishings or interior artifacts and holy curios. Today, most of the church must remain status quo. That is, the different Christian sects have agreed that there can be no changes, some things can’t even be cleaned. A ladder once used to work on the front of the church still remains and cannot nor will not be taken town.
Inside the Sepulchre sits behind loosely hung velvet ropes yet worshippers can touch, kiss and present rosary beads or other curios while praying for the Lord. The church was mildly crowded with Greek monks milling about while candles burned and tour guides whispered. Some walked with their eyes closed circling their heads as if in some trance, yet others with hands held together in prayer softly mumbled hymn like prayers — all in worship and respect for the one that died for their sins. I’ve certainly been in more amazing gothic cathedrals, great baroque churches and massive monasteries, but this must be the most holy and as the string of Christians continued to line up so they could rest their lips on and kiss the sepulchre I continued my exploration of Old Jerusalem.