Monday, May 7, 2012

The Treasure Room!

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With two clicks the images will enlarge and reveal the details.

These birds stand guard over something very rare and special to many Christians:

-- a fragment of the True Cross! [although some say, "as legend has it . . . .]

The icon shows Emperor Constantine and his mother, St. Helena.
Queen Helena went to the Holy Land in about 326, searched for, and [some say] found, the three crosses that had stood on Calvary.
Mother and son then had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built on the site.

To commemorate this, Jerusalem Catholics today (May 6-7) celebrated the day of The Finding of the Holy Cross.

My trusty calendar says that "On the day of the feast, Mass is celebrated, followed by a solemn procession through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, led by the Custos holding a relic of the Holy Cross.

I assume the Franciscans have their own relic of the cross; however, what I show you in this post is the one belonging to the Greek Orthodox.

Getting back to our walk through the Treasure Room, which is only rarely open to pilgrims . . . in the photo above you see the glass-covered wooden cases along the walls of the tiny room.

They contains relics of early Christian saints, such as this hand.

And this forearm.

The lid of the reliquary is open to reveal a fragment of someone's skull.

During my brief visit to the Treasure Room I saw women crossing themselves and bending to kiss the glass over each of the relics.

LinkNext time you are in the Holy Sepulchre look for this door into the little Treasure Room.
It is a very strange and special experience [I say, speaking as a Jew].
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In fact, let's see if Julie will take this post for Taphophile Tragics.
It is also a one-room tour for Our World Tuesday.

See also my post.St. Thérèse's relics on pilgrimage in Israel.
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25 comments:

Theanne said...

so much of interest revealed in your post! enjoyed this visit to "The Treasure Room"!

Gary said...

I always find the question of relics far fetched; as for kissing the glass, strange. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Joyful said...

I hadn't heard this story. It was interesting!

cloudia charters said...

the Hawaiians strongly believe in the spiritual energy in ancestral bones "Iwi." Bones of the chiefs were carefully hidden by special retainers.

Great post, Dina

Sara said...

I find it all rather macabre...but I know these things are sacred to many...and I can understand why they would feel that way.

Robert Geiss said...

What an adventure !

Thank you very much. Please have a good Tuesday.

KB said...

Great pics. I have pictures of the beach to share this week.

Emille said...

I strongly believe in the story of the cross, but maybe I'm too Western to give credence to the relics. I do believe though to be respectful around the things of G_D.

Kay L. Davies said...

I understand how people can feel emotional about the early saints, but I agree with Gary about kissing the glass. Strange and unsanitary, I'd say. Nevertheless, it is certainly not up to me to criticize anyone's faith, nor to tell them how they should demonstrate it.
I admire you, Dina, for the way you grant dignity to the Christian pilgrims who come to your country. You are very kind and very fair in the way you describe sacred places.
K

Arija said...

Call me a skeptic if you will but to find the 'true' cross over 300 years later where many people were crucified, stretches my credulity to it's very limits. I suppose it is not the 'relic' so much as the belief in it that can effect miracles. I have to wonder about the hygiene of so many people kissing glass cases . . .

Liam said...

Very nice blog. I love Jerusalem and will definitely follow your posts.

I have a relic of the cross myself (perhaps?) which I blogged about: http://trepanatus.blogspot.com/2006/09/triumph-of-cross.html

Dina said...

Liam, thanks for your visit and for the link to your post.

Everyone, you should definitely see Liam's link to his more complete telling of the story of the finding of the cross in the comment above. I made my telling overly shortened.

crystal said...

Hah - as I read this post I was thinking of Liam's relic :)

They say that if you put all the slivers of the True Cross together, they'd make a forest, but I suspect if I had a relic myself I'd tend to believe in it.

Gemma Wiseman said...

These sacred treasures must at least create wonder and curiosity among believers and non believers alike! I would be interested to see how these relics are preserved and housed in this room! Intriguing post!

Black Jack's Carol said...

You gave a fascinating tour through the Treasure Room. Although I am not attached to any religious denomination, I have taught in a Hasidic Jewish school (Montreal), as well as Catholic, Protestant and International schools across Canada. My last 13 years were in a school in Vancouver, where students came from 30 different countries. I loved your tone of respect for each person's right to believe what works for them. Loved the photos and information! I'm thinking your job must be very exciting.

Rob and Mandy said...

I usually have my doubts about pieces of the true cross, but I remember reading somewhere that at least this bit is more or less from the right time. So, who knows?

Reader Wil said...

The Treasure Room! That's one of the rooms I didn't see! Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Yes it was great walking with you in the Old City. I hope that what I tell about it is correct.
Have a great ABC Wednesday.

Dina said...

Wil, this was my first time inside the Treasure Room! It is rarely open. Sorry you missed it.

NixBlog said...

Although I am Greek Orthodox and our church places great value on holy relics, I find this belief rather extreme and difficult to incorporate into my own spiritualism. The most I can concede is that the relics and icons are symbols that help some people come closer to God. Personally, I believe that faith is a much more private and internal matter that does not depend on external, miraculous artefacts.
Interesting post, Dina.

Susie of Arabia said...

Fascinating! You are a wealth of knowledge, Dina! Always a treat to stop by your blog.

CaT said...

interesting!
but why is this room only rarely open? and when is it open, then? just randomly, or on specified days...?

Dina said...

Nick, I think this is a problem with "Western man" in general.

Susie, it is fun for me to learn more about a place in order to share it.

CaT, I guess the treasures seem all the more special if you can't see them every day.
I don't know when or why they open the door. Most visitors to the Holy Sepulchre do not even know there is a Treasure Room.

Julie Storry said...

One of my pleasures is to come to many of the Taphophile Tragics contributions AFTER most people have visited. This way I can read their responses and their ideas based on the particular post.

Your post this week, Dina, is a wonderful example of this. I agree with Kay, that you treat the Christian religion with as much sensitivity as you do your own. I am neither, but appreciate respect in general.

I agree with Nick, too, that relics have no significance to me personally, and there are times when I struggle to understand the importance that other people place upon mere 'things'.

Thank you for this insight ...

Herding Cats said...

Wow, how interesting. Although I do often wonder how the saints feel about having bits of their bodies displayed.

JM said...

I don't care if it is a 'as legend has it...' case or not, all the pieces you show us are gorgeous!