Jerusalem

Jerusalem  (signifying probably “abode of peace”), the “Holy City,” central point of Hebrew worship and Christian tradition, was founded by the ancient Canaanite inhabitants upon a spur of the limestone ridge that forms the watershed of this part of Palestine. Standing at an elevation of twenty-six hundred feet upon a plateau about half a mile square and cutoff by the deep valleys of Gihon on the west, Hinnon on the south, and Jehoshaphat east, the city held an almost impregnable position, and was only wrested from the Jebusites by David, who made it the base of his military and political enterprises. The modern city proper is surrounded by a wall of hewn stones, two and one-half miles in circumference, and probably built by the Sultan Solyman the Magnificent. This wall is surmounted by thirty-eight towers and pierced by eight gates. The inner city is divided into four quarters—the Armenian in the southwest, the Jewish in the southeast, the Moslem in the northeast, and the Christian in the northwest. Since 1858 extensions have been made towards the north and west. In the older part the streets are narrow, dull, and dirty. The Mosque of Omar, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Jews' Wailing Place, are among the more interesting places.

It has always been a sacred city. Its drama of events included the reigns of David and Solomon; the sieges of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian hosts; the Greek conquest; the heroism of the Maccabees; the events of the Roman dominion; our Saviour's appearance and crucifixion; the siege of Titus and its destruction, A. D. 70; its rebuilding by Hadrian, A. D. 120; the Crusades, and its capture by Godfrey of Bouillon (first Christian King of Jerusalem), Richard Cœur de Lion, and its final capture by the Ottoman Turks in 1516.

The later-built additions extend much beyond the walls of Our Lord's time, and beyond the reputed site of Calvary (He “suffered without the Gate”), which is now in the middle of the city. Of the eight gates, one is called St. Stephen's, or Bâb Sitti Maryam (Lady Mary Gate), at the end of the via Dolorosa, leading to Gethsemane, Mount of Olives (where He beheld the city and wept over it), and Bethany. The Golden Gate, which He entered on Palm Sunday, is walled up. The relics of the old city are buried twenty to forty feet below the present site.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the northwest quarter of the city is so called because alleged to contain under its roof the very grave in which the Saviour lay. This church, which was built by Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, is remarkable for the richness of its decorations and the number of pilgrims by whom it is visited.

On Mount Moriah, Solomon is supposed to have built his famous temple, where a rectangular walled space called the Harâm at present encloses the Mosque of Omar and the El Aksa Mosque, once, perhaps, a Christian church. Recent explorers believe that they found traces of Solomon's masonry here, and the foundations of the existing walls are more safely identified with those of the sacred building as reconstructed by Hadrian.

According to the Jews, Abraham sacrificed here, the intended offering of Isaac was here, and Jacob anointed the rock. The Order of Knights Templar was founded in this Mosque. Just outside the extreme northeast corner of the Harâm, to be seen from the windows in north wall, down in a ravine, is the Pool of Bethesda, rarely containing water, half filled with rubbish.

North of the Harâm is a huge rocky platform, where the residence of the Turkish governor marks the site of the Court of Pontius Pilate.

The Golgotha Chapels on Mount Calvary are off the south side of the east end of the Church of the Crusaders. Steps lead up to them, their elevation being fourteen and one-half feet above the main building. Just beyond the top of the steps is a silver lined opening where the Cross was inserted in the rock; at a distance of about five feet the spots of the thieves' crosses are indicated—some searches are satisfied that the cross of the penitent thief would be the one to the north.

Gethsemane  is at the base of Mount Olivet, and near it is the traditional Grotto of the Agony, with the spot where Judas betrayed his Master. This grotto is held in great veneration, and near it is the Church of St. Salvatore, said to have been erected by the mother of Constantine, containing the tombs of St. James, St. Ann, and St. Joseph.

The Via Dolorosa , or Way of the Cross, possesses a number of places of much interest, even if partly legendary. Among them the place where Christ is said to have pronounced the words “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me.” Where the Virgin is said to have fainted on meeting her Son. At a truncated column where Jesus fainted under the Cross, and they called on Simon of Cyrene to help him. The house of Dives, and the stone on which Lazarus sat. The Gate of Judgment, formerly marking the limits of the town, and the Calvary itself, now inclosed within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Mount Zion  (though used in the Scriptures as identical with Jerusalem) is just outside the southwest corner of the city wall. There were Christian churches erected here at very early dates over the spot where the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles, but there followed so many destructions, mutilations, and confusions, that little certainty attaches to the cluster of buildings now standing. Here is reputed to be the tomb of David, and the Room of the Last Supper, once part of a Christian Church.

The Mount of Olives  is a range of eminences and slight depressions on the east side of Jerusalem, parallel with the hill of the Temple, but on higher ground. Here is the Tomb of the Virgin within a subterranean church, where she lay until her “assumption.” A few yards from the Tomb, off the south side of the road, is the Garden of Gethsemane. The Chapel of the Ascension marks the tradition of the Ascension of Christ from this spot.