Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bridges and benches in the Garden Tomb

British General Charles Gordon literally lost his head at the hands of Mahdist rebels in the Sudan, in the ill-fated defense of Khartoum.

But in Israel he is better known for having "discovered" Gordon's Calvary.
Three holes in the cliff, when seen from afar, make it look like a skull, i.e. Golgotha in Aramaic, the "place of the skull" mentioned in the New Testament as where Jesus was crucified.

And just on the other side of where the fence now stands, Gordon discovered an ancient tomb.
He decided that this, and not the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, was the true place of the crucifixion and burial.

Most scholars do not agree.
But this did not stop popular Protestant piety from making the site, today called the Garden Tomb, into the most moving place for prayer and meditation for non-Catholic pilgrims.

Group after group stands in line to enter the small room of the tomb for a brief minute.

In any one of the many clusters of benches you can hear hymns rising, or sermons, or readings from the Gospels--in Finnish or Spanish or African languages or even English.

Several bridges make large parts of the garden handicapped accessible.
Here's a picture for both Louis' Sunday Bridges and the bench-blogging friends.
The old arches are more graceful than the modern straight lines.

The bench-groupings are everywhere, each with its own altar.

Each table is ready with the Communion elements.

The Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom. There virtual tour is here.

The exit from the Garden Tomb is through the gift shop.

For pictures of inside the tomb and of the surroundings and of the huge cistern, see Sacred Destinations and

UPDATE: Dear readers, please see my clarification of some things in the Comments section.
(Linking to inSPIRED Sunday.)


Leif Hagen said...

I think you've got the corner market on benches and bridges in Jerusalem! Grooovy!

Reader Wil said...

This is again a very interesting post, Dina! I thank you for showing the various links to this Garden Tomb. Jerusalem keeps our minds busy! Today we celebrated Israel Day, We sang a lot of psalms about Jerusalem.

Francisca said...

I agree with you Dina that the arched bridges have more charm than the straight ones. With due respect for believers, I can't help but think it's slightly bizarre for people to flock to a place the scholars have rejected for having any special significance. Maybe they've collectively lost their heads? :-)

Pat said...

This looks like an interesting place, with a lot of history. I, too, like the curved bridges compared to the straight ones.

Spiderdama said...

This is a special place for Christians. Your information and the description is great! As if I was there.
Wish you a blessed week:-)

VP said...

I remember the Garden Tomb, no queues then, but some ladies were taking pictures of their friends posing as they were just risen from the tomb.

jennyfreckles said...

I found the Garden Tomb to be a special place, not because I believed it was THE tomb but because it is a peaceful place in a busy city. It equated more to the tomb I have always imagined when I read the Bible than the one in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which historians seem to think is the more likely place) so it allowed me some spiritual space. If that's 'losing my head', then so be it!

ben wideman said...

Aside from not being quite historically based, I found this site to be much more meaningful than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Dina said...

Woa, I see I have to clarify my words.
First, sorry if my "humor" sometimes tends toward the morbid. The first link leads to a gruesome description of how the rebels in Sudan cut off Gordon's head and paraded it on a stick. This is what I literally meant by "lost his head." I didn't mean he became silly or crazy.

Second, I personally don't care if any particular holy site is the real place a Bible event happened or not. I think what makes it holy is the pilgrims. A place much prayed in (especially for centuries) takes on its own holiness.

I find that visitors either love the Garden Tomb and hate the Holy Sepulchre or vice versa.

I remember the Garden Tomb from 20 years ago when it was indeed a quiet green place. But today there are so many groups going through. Each one can be given only 30 minutes in their meeting place and then they have to move on. The Arab street outside is chocked with tourist buses. Granted, I have only been there twice in the last few years. But I never could find a spot to sit alone and feel the place.
The cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also crowded, but I know certain corners to hide out and sit alone.

But then, I'm not even a Christian. What do *I* know.

Jenny and Ben, I am glad you found your spiritual space at the Garden Tomb. Jenny, I hope after my comment here you will see that my post did not mean to offend.
Shalom and blessings to you.

jennyfreckles said...

No offence taken... sorry if I sounded defensive. Maybe I was lucky that it wasn't too busy when I was there so I found some quiet to think and pray. It is lovely to be reminded of it by your photos. Shalom and blessings to you too.

J_on_tour@jayzspaze said...

Thanks for posting this, I often wondered what it looked like.

Petrea Burchard said...

Dina, if I ever get to either of the two places, I hope you'll be my guide. Jerusalem is a wonder when seen through your eyes.

Francisca said...

Hmmm... I also did not intend to offend. Bad humour, I guess. Sorry. Any place people find peace is good.

Kay said...

It was truly interesting to walk around with you, Dina. I am continually amazed at just how many historical places there are in Jerusalem. It seems every square inch holds a historical artifact.

RuneE said...

Nice - both bridges and benches!

Louis la Vache said...

What a fine post, Dina.

«Louis's» sense of humor would lead him to make a comment like you made about Gordon, never intending that it should offend anyone - and then he would be nonplussed by the fact that his humor was misunderstood.

Be that as it may, your mention of Gordon brought to mind Churchill's role in the battle avenging Gordon's death and Churchill's insight into Islam, written in 1899 when he was twenty-five.

Jim said...

Great post. Very interesting read.

Bill Nicholls said...

Very interesting to read about it though I doubt I will be visiting, had enough traveling

bettyl-NZ said...

What a great post! Thanks for all this info that I never heard about before. I love learning a little here and there from my bloggy friends!

Personally, I wonder if any of the 'places' are really where Jesus died and was buried because people tend to make places and things items of worship--idols, if you will--instead of the True God. But that's just my opinion :)