Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Tomb of Christ

In honor of Easter, fellow Souvenir Building Collector Scott D. researched a building appropriate for today. The Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre (The Tomb of Christ) which is labeled as an “unidentified Jerusalem Church” in the Monumental Miniatures book (#1343). The site is where the New Testament says that Jesus was crucified and is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century, as the purported site of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Scott Writes, “Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also called the Church of the Resurrection, sits the Edicule. Constantine’s Edicule, the first of the four "little houses" which have covered and protected the remains of the tomb since its discovery in 325-6. The best evidence how the first Edicule looked like is provided by a replica standing about a foot high, cut in a block of Pyrennean marble, found at Narbonne in south-west France, and dating from the fifth or sixth century AD. Being cut in local marble it cannot be a direct copy of the Edicule in Jerusalem, but must be based on some intermediate copy, probably itself a model rather than a set of drawings. Therefore, it might be considered one of the very first souvenir buildings. Models of it have been found in Cathedrals across Europe and even whole scale replicas. Other souvenirs over the ages have been molded pewter flasks and medallions, the painted lid of a box of relics (found in the Lateran in Rome) and images on pottery and glass where all for the pilgrim trade. Some museums and churches might have small replicas of the Edicule not knowing what it is. The present Edicule is the fourth to be built on the site. The first one was deliberately destroyed in 1009. Crusaders rebuilt it in 1099. It laid in decay till 1555 when the Edicule was rebuilt. The Edicule of 1555, the third in succession, preserved all the essential features of the medieval Edicule it replaced. This is the version that most ancient souvenir models were based off of. A fire in 1808 badly damaged the Edicule and the version we see today was built by a Greek architect who practiced in Constantinople, Nikolaos Komnenos. It is an Ottoman Baroque style Kiosk erected in 1809-1810. The present Edicule has suffered much over the 190 years since it was built. For 40 years, the rains and snows of Jerusalem winters poured down on it through the open eye of the dome immediately above. In 1868, the dome was rebuilt and the opening shielded by a cover. But the damage had been done. Gradually the Edicule settled under the weight of the heavy vaults Komnenos had erected over the two compartments inside the tomb, the Chapel of the Angel and the tomb chamber itself.The British Mandatory authorities were alarmed by the state of the tomb as soon as they arrived in Palestine in 1917. Ronald Storrs, then Military Governor of Jerusalem, at once requested the Latin, Greek, and Armenian patriarchs to suspend the custom of hanging Lenten ornaments on the tomb, as they were accustomed to do under the status quo which governs procedures in the church. Two of the patriarchs agreed, but the third would not, and Storrs wrote laying responsibility "for any possible damage accruing to the sacred structure ..." at the door of the third patriarch. In 1926, alarmed by the open gaps between the bulging stones, the government arranged for an architect, A.C. Holliday, civic advisor to the Pro-Jerusalem Society, (which had been founded by Storrs) to survey the tomb. After lengthy negotiations, the agreement of the religious communities was obtained to the removal of some stones on the north side of the Edicule, so as to allow inspection of the core of the wall. The British were somewhat reassured. Holliday’s report revealed that the Edicule had an inner structure which seemed vertical and sound enough. Only the skin of masonry cladding added in 1809-10 was coming away under the weight of the vaults and upper works. The really important thing which no-one seems to have realized at the time was that this investigation showed that within the 19th-century skin there was an earlier Edicule. Recent discoveries suggest that the remains of several earlier Edicule survive one inside another, like the skins of an onion. The calm wisdom of Holiday’s report was vindicated the following year; when the church was severely damaged in the great earthquake of 1927, the Edicule held fast. For the next 40 years the whole church was a forest of scaffolding. Even to get in, one had to pass under the raking shoring which prevented the Crusader south front from collapsing into the courtyard. For 20 years nothing was done to the Edicule, but in 1947 a survey by a firm of consulting engineers, Freeman, Fox and Partners of London, showed that its "condition must be on the border of instability and reconstruction cannot be safely neglected." In March, 1947, as the last of the Mandate governments many actions in the care of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Public Works Department wrapped the Edicule in a cradle of steel, the girders. And so the Edicule stands today, the holiest shrine of Christendom covered in steel. From time to time small pieces flake off the marble blocks as the pressures shift, and little piles of stone dust can be found around the bases of the spiral columns of the east front. The structure is tottering and it can only be a matter of time before another earth tremor brings it down. Seems the Edicule architecture last, less and less thought the centuries. The first version was around for 600 years before it was destroyed. The Crusader version lasted for 300 years before it was restored. The third Edicule lasted 250 years till it was badly damaged in a fired. The recent Edicule is under 200 years old and needs restoration yet again. Recently, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is going through a restoration agreed upon the 3 religious communities in the church. It may finally be possible to examine the Edicule itself, for its restoration is urgent and cannot be long put off. Here, within all the subsequent stages in the rebuilding of this most sacred of Christian shrines, the remains of the original rock-cut tomb may be found. The current souvenir versions since there have been many versions made of the Edicule over the centuries are made out of pot metal. Most are on wooden bases that are 5 inches long and the top of the model being 4 inches tall. Some of the models have inscribed Jerusalem on them. Hence in the past people thought that this is a church located there. They are half right for it is located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Yet again and again the Edicule model has been produced for the pilgrim trade and will likely continue for centuries to come.” – Scott

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails