Unseen Passage: Jerusalem

For four days, I walked through the narrow lanes of the old city, enjoying the romance of being in a city where history still lives – in its cobblestone streets and in its people riding asses, carrying vine leaves and palm as they once did during the time of Christ.

This is Jerusalem, home to the sacred sites of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. This is the place, where there is a church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place where Jesus was finally laid to rest. This is also the site of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

Built by the Roman Emperor Constantine at the site of an earlier temple to Aphrodite, it is the most venerated Christian shrine in the world. And justifiably so. Here, within the church, are the last five stations of the cross, the 10th station where Jesus was stripped off his clothes, the 11th where he was nailed to the cross, the 12th where he died on the cross, the 13th where the body was removed from the cross, and the 14th, his tomb.

For all this weighty tradition, the approach and entrance to the church is non descriptive. You have to ask for directions. Even to the devout Christian pilgrims walking along the Via Dolorosa – The Way of Sorrow – first nine stations look clueless. Then a courtyard appears, hemmed in by other buildings and a doorway to one side. This leads to a vast area of huge stone architecture.

Immediately inside the entrance is your first stop. It’s the stone of anointing: this is the place, according to Greek tradition, where Christ was removed from the cross. The Roman Catholics, however, believe it to be the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph.

What happened next? Jesus was buried. He was taken to a place outside the city of Jerusalem where other graves existed and there, he was buried in a cave. However, all that is long gone, destroyed by continued attacks and rebuilding; what remains is the massive – and impressive – Rotunda (a round building with a dome) that Emperor Constantine built. Under this, and right in the centre of the Rotunda, is the structure that contains the Holy Sepulchre.

“How do you know that this is Jesus’ tomb?” I asked one of the pilgrims standing next to me. He was clueless, more interested, like the rest of them, in the novelty of it all and in photographing it, than in its history or tradition.

At the start of the first century, the place was a disused quarry outside the city walls. According to the gospels, Jesus’ crucifixion occurred ‘at a place outside the city walls with graves nearby Archaeologists have discovered tombs from that era, so the site is compatible with the biblical period.

The structure at the site is a marble tomb built over the original burial chamber. It has two rooms, and you enter four at a time into the first of these, the Chapel of the Angel. Here the angle is supposed to have sat on a stone to recount Christ’s resurrection. A low door made of white marble, partly worn away by pilgrims’ hands, leads to a smaller chamber inside. This is the ‘room of the tomb’, the place where Jesus was buried.

We entered in single file. On my right was a large marble slab that covered the original rock bench on which the body of Jesus was laid. A woman knelt and prayed. Her eyes were wet with tears. She pressed her face against the slab to hide them, but it only made it worse.

Q. On the basis of your understanding of this passage answer the following questions with the help of given options:

  1. How does Jerusalem still retain the charm of an ancient era?
    1. There are narrow lanes
    2. Roads are paved with cobblestones
    3. People can be seen riding assess
    4. All of the above
  2. Holy Sepulchre is sacred to _____________ .
    1. Christianity
    2. Islam
    3. Judaism
    4. Both 1. and 1
  3. Why does one have to constantly ask for directions to the church?
    1. Its lanes are narrow.
    2. Entrance to the church is non descript.
    3. People are not tourist-friendly.
    4. Everyone is lost in enjoying the romance of the place.
  4. Where was Jesus buried?
    1. In a cave.
    2. At a place outside the city.
    3. In the Holy Sepulchre
    4. Both 1. and 2.


  • All of the above.
  • Christianity.
  • Entrance to the church is non-descript.
  • Both 1. and 2.

Q. Answer the following questions briefly:

  1. What is the Greek belief about the ‘stone of anointing’?
  2. Why did Emperor Constantine build the Rotunda?
  3. What is the general attitude of the pilgrims?
  4. How is the site compatible with the biblical period?
  5. Why did the pilgrims enter the ‘room of the tomb’ in a single file?
  6. Why did ‘a woman’ try to hide her tears?
  7. Find words from the passage which mean the same as:
    1. A large grave (para 3)
    2. Having no interesting features/dull (para 4)


  1. According to the Greek belief, the stone of anointing is a place where Christ was removed from the cross.
  2. Emperor Constantine built Rotunda to safeguard the Holy Sepulchre and the remaining structure around it.
  3. Pilgrims have a very casual attitude and they are completely unaware of the history and tradition. They are more into capturing pictures and appreciating the novelty of the church.
  4. According to the gospels, Jesus’ crucifixion occurred ‘at a place outside the city walls with graves nearby…’ and as the archaeologists have discovered tombs from the Biblical era, the site is compatible.
  5. ‘Room of the tomb’ is a very small place, hence the pilgrims entered in a single file.
  6. Like a true Christian she felt overwhelmed as Jesus was buried there. Her eyes were wet with tears but she tried to hide as she didn’t want to he seen crying by others.
  7. Words are:
    1. Tomb
    2. Non-descript

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