Sunday, November 09, 2008

Brawl in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

By non sequitur

This sort of thing actually happens fairly frequently; many such episodes are described in Amos Elon's excellent book on Jerusalem. But it's still amusing when it happens, and you see clergy from different Eastern Orthodox Rites basically rioting in the holiest site in Orthodox Christianity. And, of course, the altercations are always over someone standing in the wrong place, or trying to move a ladder, or something equally absurd.

Incidentally, having been to Jerusalem I can say that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is rather a squalid little dump. It has the occasional out of the way place that has some character or interest, but for the most part its a squat, dark little building used as a tourist mill. It's very hard to find the experience of going there anything other than disappointing and even slight repulsive. The al-Aqsa compound, on the other hand, is magnificent, probably the most impressive human creation I've seen. The al-Aqsa mosque itself is full of light and space (like the compound as a whole) and stretches itself out with a majestic sense of order and precision. The Dome of the Rock, on the other hand, is much more compressed and dark, but perfect in both design and ornamentation. And the Western Wall is deeply romantic and evocative. So perhaps the regular fisticuffs at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are as much about their own feelings of inadequacy as they are about confessional rivalry.

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