02 September 2008

The most famous ladder in Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is believed to be built on the site of Christ's crucifixion and burial, and its present form largely takes the shape set down in the reconstruction financed by Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII, which was completed in 1048. Any work done on the Church nowadays is tricky to organise though, because of its highly complicated stewardship. This has led to an odd historical glitch that can be witnessed as you enter the site:

The primary custodians [of the Church] 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...

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.

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 the ledge in century-old photographs and engravings.

Monty Python would've appreciated the logic. Plus it's always a hassle putting ladders away. Far better to leave them out (for 160-odd years). See below for pictures of the ladder in 2005 and 1892:

- Source: Wikipedia

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