Thursday, April 4, 2013


This stunning carving of Charlemagne done by Agostino Corniacchini sits just off to the side of the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica. As you are about to enter the Basilica turn left and walk over to the gate that separates the public from the private areas and you can't miss this amazing sculpture. The horse and man are probably close to double life size and is amazing in its own rite, but the drapes behind and above are mind blowing. I don't know if they are carved from a single piece of marble or not, but either way they are CARVED from stone, tassles and all! Absolutely amazing.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem

The day is almost over but I thought I would post a few pictures from Easter Sunday in Jerusalem. It has been 3 years since I was there in 2010, but it feels like yesterday! (okay maybe not, since as I was looking at these photos I thought some of them were from Easter Sunday, but the date stamps on a few say they were from Palm Sunday… hmm… strange.. I don't remember going to the Holy Sepulchre on Palm Sunday at all…. must be getting old)

 Anyways! I know that the Saviour lives, that the Tomb was indeed empty on that first Easter Sunday many many years ago! The gospel is good news and is something to be excited about!

My Easter Morning in the Holy Land started with a morning service at the Garden Tomb.  The Garden Tomb is where most of the Protestant churches feel that the actual tomb of Christ is located.  Many members and leaders of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also feel that this was the actual site of the tomb, and I tend to agree with them.  For me personally it doesn't really matter if either of the two traditional sites are the actual site, what matters most of the feelings that I had while there.  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where most of the Catholic and other orthodox Christian churches think the actual tomb was -- more on that later) is a wonderful place, but it is a little jarring and different compared to my religious experiences.  It is a dark, cold, echoey, stone church filled with candles and incense and lots of people.  In contrast, the Garden Tomb is outdoors in a beautiful garden where you are surrounded by nature and the smell of fresh flowers.  It is (usually) very quite and reverent.  You often hear various groups singing hymns or see people reading scriptures quietly on their own.  It is a place where you can easily meditate and pray and poder the Saviour and His life and ministry and mission.

There were beautiful fresh flowers and the sun was shining beautifully to welcome in the Easter morning.

The service we attended was put on by a few of the Protestant churches that own and care for the Garden tomb.  It was great to read the story of the first Easter Morning with other people who believe in the Saviour and were celebrating his Resurrection! 

Calla lilies and other gorgeous flowers fill the garden tomb.

While I love the Garden Tomb and naturally feel a bit more at home in that type of environment, during my time in Jerusalem I came to really love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as well.  I remember the first time I went in with my study group and had a tour of the whole church and thinking that it was just another dark old church.  However, as I spent more time there I came to realize that much of what makes a place holy is the attitudes and beliefs of the people who fill it.  The Holy Sepulchre is always filled with tourists and worshippers, and no matter when you go there (if you look for it) you will always see someone who is having a sublime spiritual experience.  

All during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday the Church is very busy.  There are something like 5 different religions/churches that jointly control the church, and during Easter they each have many different masses, services, and ceremonies.  I went there a few times during the week and was enthralled by the crowds of people all crammed in to worship together. 

I really like this first image, showing the entrance to a smaller church held within the Sepulchre's Rotunda, called The Edicule.  Inside the Edicule is one room with a fragment that is believed to be part of the stone that was used to seal the tomb of Christ.  This is called The Angels Stone.  The other room in this small church is the tomb itself.  Originally the tomb was in a hillside or something, but the whole hill was carved away, leaving just the inside of the tomb itself, with a thin stone wall.  Then this small church, the Edicule was built around that, and then the larger Church of the Holy Sepulchre around that.  People line up to have a glimpse inside, and it gets pretty busy.

Here you can see the Edicule from above so you can get a better idea of the layout of the Rotunda of the church.  All around this central space there are other chapels and rooms.  The whole church is huge.

As I said, despite the hectic crowded atmosphere, there are still many moments of deep reverence and quiet worship.  I was particularly drawn to this candle holder (I'm sure there is an official name for it...) where both the young and old were lighting candles in worship.

Happy Easter Everyone!