1796 - 1864
The Greek Chapel of The Holy Sepulchre

First edition lithograph
Full plate: 4
Presented in a acid free mount

Full description of the scene scroll down

Modern hand-coloured lithograph for the first edition of David Roberts’ The Holy Land.
Published by F.G. Moon & Son, London 1842-49.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was nearly destroyed by fire in the year 1808 ; lone neglected by the Latin Christians, it was repaired by Russia, which carefully cultivates
its connexion with the Asiatic Greeks ; and in consequence of this expenditure, the Greek monks have been put in possession of the most venerated parts of the edifice. In the engraving the view is directed to the screen, which, as in all the churches of the Greek ritual, separates the nave from the altar. Though sculpture is rigidly excluded, pictures and other embellishments are largely employed. This chapel is lavishly ornamented ; and though it exhibits a barbaric mixture of styles, Greek, Gothic, and Saracenic, the general effect is rich in the extreme. The profusion of gilding, the gold and silver lamps continually burning, and the elaborate decoration of every part, render the first view overpowering.

Near the centre stands a small vase, to which the Greeks attach great reverence, regarding it as the central spot of the earth, and call it the “Navel of the World.”

Mr Roberts’s Journal describes the scene  “March 31, 1839 (Palm Sunday).—This is a great day at the Holy Sepulchre, and we witnessed the procession early in the morning. Perhaps after seeing the splendid sights of this kind in Spain, they were seen to disadvantage, still to me they were most interesting. The Latins took no part in the spectacle, being shut out on account of the plague, and holding no communication with the city.”

The first, therefore, in the ceremonial, were the Greeks. Entering from their con- vent by the grand entrance, they walked three times round the rotunda inclosing the Holy Sepulchre, chanting the service, and each bearing a palm-branch. Their banners and dresses were splendid. Their two bishops wearing circular caps and sumptuous robes, were supported each by two dignitaries wearing similar robes, crimson velvet embroidered with gold. At the head of the procession was carried a representation of Christ on the Cross, which the pilgrims pressed forward to kiss. On entering the chapel, the chief bishop, ascending the steps to the central opening of the screen, gave his benediction to the multitude, holy water was sprinkled, and flowers were strewed on the steps leading to the Holy Sepulchre.

The two bishops then seating themselves on gilded thrones on either side of the chapel, distributed baskets of consecrated bread. Next followed the procession of the Armenians ; their bishop wearing a mitre and a robe still more glittering than those of the Greeks, being covered with pearls and precious stones on a ground of crimson velvet. The Copts and Syrians joined this procession, being too few to form a separate one. The Copts carried a representation of Christ on the Cross and banners. But their appearance was poor, and their bishop bore but a staff of ivory, while those of the Greeks and Armenians were of chased gold set with gems.

The point of time in the engraving is when the Armenian bishop has taken his place in front of the altar.