Wednesday, January 12, 2011

✈Worldwide Wednesdays: The Immovable Ladder on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Immovable Ladder on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, ISRAEL

The immovable ladder.
Detail from photograph
 of main entrance above, 2005
by Wiki user Guilhem06
The immovable ladder of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a religious symbol of a sort, a kind of miracle possible only through human folly. It is also one of the most powerful and iconic symbols of the divisions and religious disputes within Christian World.

Proposed as the site of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places in Christianity and has been the site of pilgrimages since the 4th century. However, even this most venerated shrine could not escape the quirks of human nature, vanity, pride and envy.

The primary custodians are the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic Churches, with the Greek Orthodox Church having the lion's share. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. Times and places of worship for each community are strictly regulated in common areas.

Even from its earliest days Christianity was subject to splintering, creating numerous
Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchrepic
 by Wiki user David Shankbone
denominations and sects, all claiming to be the only true school of followers of Jesus Christ. The most prominent of these fought bitterly over the centuries for the dominance over the holy places in Palestine. During the time of Muslim dominance over the area, a government equally hostile to all Christian denominations, no one sect could achieve a clear advantage over the others. As the disputes rolled on, the methods of gaining advantage became ever more dubious including outright bribery, blackmail, and the use of force.

Establishment of the 1853 status quo did not halt the violence, which continues to break out every so often even in modern times. On a hot summer day in 2002, a Coptic monk moved his chair from its agreed spot into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile move by the Ethiopians, and eleven were hospitalized after the resulting fracas.
In another incident in 2004 during Orthodox celebrations of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a door to the Franciscan chapel was left open. This was taken as a sign of disrespect by the Orthodox and a fistfight broke out. Some people were arrested, but no one was seriously injured.
On Palm Sunday, in April 2008, a brawl broke out when a Greek monk was ejected from the building by a rival faction. Police were called to the scene but were also attacked by the enraged brawlers. A clash erupted between Armenian and Greek monks on Sunday 9 November 2008, during celebrations for the Feast of the Holy Cross.
Under the status quo, no part of what is designated as common territory may be so much as rearranged without consent from all communities. This often leads to the neglect of badly needed repairs when the communities cannot come to an agreement among themselves about the final shape of a project. Just such a disagreement has delayed the renovation of the edicule, where the need is now dire, but also where any change in the structure might result in a change to the status quo disagreeable to one or more of the communities.

Ladder in 1890
A less grave sign of this state of affairs is located on a window ledge over the church's entrance. Someone placed a wooden ladder there sometime before 1852, when the status quo defined both the doors and the window ledges as common ground. The ladder remains there to this day, in almost exactly the same position it can be seen to occupy in century-old photographs and engravings.
None of the communities controls the main entrance. In 1192, Saladin assigned responsibility for it to two neighboring Muslim families. The Joudeh were entrusted with the key, and the Nusseibeh, who had been the custodians of the church since the days of Caliph Omar in 637, retained the position of keeping the door. This arrangement has persisted into modern times. Twice each day, a Joudeh family member brings the key to the door, which is locked and unlocked by a Nusseibeh.

Resources:,  Wikipedia

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