There were a lot of people inside, pilgrims from many different countries. Moshe was explaining the architecture and pointing out several interesting things, the fact that the last four stations of the Cross are situated inside the building, and then suggested we took the steep stairway up on our right to the top of Golgotha where Jesus was hung on the cross...( you are kidding....right? That's not where it was... really???).
Now, for those of us who can remember back to our RE lessons, we all have our images of where the cross was, and the hill, but it was OUTSIDE the city, this couldn't possibly be the right place, within the old city, inside a church. So, we climbed the steps and joined the queue that was going through the beautifully richly ornamented Greek Orthodox section where people were queueing up to touch the top of Golgotha which was situated underneath the altar.
To be honest, I found the whole thing utterly odd and just stood and observed, taking in the richness of the decoration and the watchful eye of the Greek Orthodox priest who was keeping an eye on everyone. We then went down the steep steps on the other side and saw through the glass panel the rock that formed part of the hill.
As we got to the bottom, we then turned to the left, and I found myself facing the Stone of Anointing which is where they laid Jesus once he was removed from the cross. It was an astonishing sight to witness. There were lots of Eastern European pilgrims, they had all come through the market to this point, passing many of the traders selling Christian artifacts. They arrived at the stone, opened their carrier bags, took out numerous crosses, small icons and other items, keyrings etc., laid them on the stone, knelt and kissed it, and then prayed silently. Then, they gathered everything back up, and put it all back in the carrier bag.
As I say, it was astonishing to see it, and I was a bit taken aback really. We then moved further round the church and reached the tomb. ( I really don't understand this, it can't be here....). The queue for going into the tomb was incredibly long, so Moshe suggested we come back later in the afternoon when it quietens down a little. However, he did take some time to explain that the Church was built and then restored by the Crusaders in the 12th century. It has undergone many renovations since.
Maybe I should add here what Moshe said to me as we went into the city, don't forget that this is a living, working city. It sometimes feels like a tourist attraction with Arab vendors selling Christian artifacts and hawking their wares trying to draw you into their small shops, but he is right, there was plenty to show that this is a place where people lived, had their homes and worked.
The city is also multi-layered with one period building on top of another in some instances. So this is why it can seem confusing.
We left the church and walked a short distance and entered a Russian Orthodox church just a little further down the road, and saw what would have been the original entrance steps to the church of the Holy Sepulchre, again, I found this confusing, trying to get my bearings was proving a little difficult, but I had a good guide who was patient in trying to get me to understand what it would have looked like originally.
We carried on our way, down a few more alleys and up some stairs and suddenly, we were standing on the roof of the market, and looking at Jerusalem from a completely different viewpoint. It took my breath away, and to me I felt as if I was standing on the top of the world. From there we could see the domes of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the minaret of the mosque the soldier jumped from, the dome of Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa mosque, all the domes were the same size, so no one dominated the other or was better than the other.
It is noticeable that all the buildings in Jerusalem are the same colour, which ages gracefully and I learnt that, by law, all buildings in Jerusalem have to be built from Jerusalem stone, so there's an interesting fact for you.
From there, we went back down into the bustle of the market, and walked into the Jewish Quarter and it was here that I saw the Cardo which was originally the main street which ran north to south as opposed to the Decamanus which runs east to west. It was interesting to see how this would have looked in the time of Jesus and he would have been familiar with it probably.
The street would have been quite wide and there would have been stores lining it even at that time.
As we turned into the Cardo, Moshe pointed out this stone in which squares had been scratched into it, and told me that it had probably been done by two bored Roman soldiers who were playing what I think, is known as Kings game, but whatever they had a game to pass the time.
All the columns bear a mark which could be the stonemason's signature, but also each and every one was marked so that when they came to put them together, they knew which column went with which base and ornamental top. It's not something I'd ever given much thought to, when you see a column, you just assume that its all in one. I also marvelled at the fact that they would have made these beautiful round columns with the most primitive of tools, and yet they were smooth and round.
From here, we went on to the Yeshiva, ( a seminary), which stands on Hurva Square and down into the depths to view the house of a wealthy person from the time of Jesus, it could have been the house of a high priest, I don't think anyone really knows. It would have been very richly decorated, and there was evidence of redecoration. There was a beautiful mosaic floor on which another one had been laid on top, a bit like us changing the carpet, or putting down hardwood.
All of a sudden, there was a commotion in the street and lots of singing and music, a Bar Mitzvah was taking place,and the crowd was making its way to the Kotel, (Western Wall) so after a little more looking at the ruins and artifacts, we exited the building...............