After we left Beit Abraham on the bus, we were dropped off by Damascus gate and walked the Old City to the place of the crucifixion and resurrection. The main street has been around since 135 CE, built by the emperor Hadrian. The street is very narrow, covered, and lined with shops. But there was almost nobody on the street and most of the shops were closed, likely in protest/solidarity after yesterday’s violence.
Anyway, the church is one of the holiest sites in all of Christianity. The guidebook though said basically prepare to be disappointed. The place is wildly muddled architecturally. It was built in the 4th century, destroyed in 1099, and rebuilt by Crusaders. There are ladders everywhere because of restrictive rules about who can touch what, and six different Christian groups who have rights there, three of whom are in charge. We saw and heard chanting Franciscans and Ethiopian monks. My impression is that it’s a mess, not physically but in every other way. Let’s just say that it wasn’t spiritually moving. It’s clear that access to this holy site for regular people is not important, which is very different than it was in the 4th century. Not that I’m sorry we went there. It has been the tradition since the beginning for Christian pilgrims to go to the Sepulchre when they first get to Jerusalem, and it is cool to be in that same tradition. It has been a very interesting day, all part of the whole Jerusalem experience. And tomorrow we go to the place of the Visitation, and John the Baptist, and Bethlehem.