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Description of the Country South and East of Jerusalem. Garden of Gethsemane-Tomb of Virgin Mary-Grottoes on Mount of
Olives-View of the City-Extent and Boundaries-View of Bethany and Dead Sea-Bethlehem-Convent-Church of the Nativity described-Paintings-Music-Population of Bethlehem-Pools of Solomon-Dwelling of Simon the Leper-Or Mary Magdalene-Tower of Simeon-Tomb of Rachel-Convent of John-Fine Church-TekoaBethulia-Hebron-Sepulchre of Patriarchs-Albaid - Kerek — Extremity of Dead Sea-Discoveries of Bankes, Legh, and Irby and Mangles-Convent of St. Saba-Valley of Jordan-Mountains-Description of Lake Asphaltites-Remains of ancient Cities in its Basin-Quality of its Waters-Apples of Sodom-Tacitus, Seetzen, Hasselquist, Chateaubriand-Width of River Jordan-Jericho-Village of Rihhah --Balsam-Fountain of Elisha-Mount of Temptation-Place of Blood-Anecdote of Sir F. Henniker-Fountain of the Apostles-Return to Jerusalem-Markets --Costume-Science-Arts-LanguageJews-Present Condition of that people.
In proceeding from Jerusalem towards Bethany, the traveller skirts the Mount of Olives; or, if he wishes to enjoy the magnificent view which it presents, both of the city and of the extensive tract watered by the Jordan, he ascends its heights, and at the same time inspects the remains of sacred architecture still to be seen on its summit. As he passes from the eastern gate, the Garden of Gethsemane meets his eyes, as well as the tomb which bears the name of the Blessed Virgin. This has a building over it with a pretty front, although the Grecian ornaments sculptured in marble are not in harmony with the pointed arch at the entrance. It is approached by a paved court, now a raised way, leading from the Mount of Olives over the Brook Kedron. The descent into it is formed by a handsome flight of steps composed of marble, being about fifty in number and of a noble breadth. About midway down are two arched recesses in the sides, said to contain the ashes of St. Anne, the mother of Mary, and of Joseph her husband. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the visiter is shown the tomb of the holy Virgin herself, which is in the form of a simple bench coated with marble. Here the Greeks and Armenians say mass by turns, and near it there is an humble altar for the Syrian Christians; while opposite to it is one for the Copts, consisting of earth, and entirely destitute of lamps, pictures, covering, and every other species of ornament." Chateaubriand tells us that the Turks had a portion of this grotto : Buckingham asserts that they have no right to enter it, nor could he “learn from the keepers of the place that they ever had ;" whereas the author of the Anonymous Journal, from which we have already quoted, states distinctly that “there is a place reserved for the Mussulmans to pray, which at the Virgin's Tomb one would not expect to be much in request.” So much for the clashing of authorities on the part of writers who could have no wish to deceive!
There are various other grottoes on the acclivity of the hill, meant to keep alive the remembrance of certain occurrences which are either mentioned in the gospel, or have been transmitted to the present age by oral tradition. Among these is one which is supposed to be the scene of the agony and the bloody sweat ; a second, that marks the place where St. Peter and the two sons of Zebedee fell asleep when their Master retired to pray; and a third, indicating the spot whereon Judas betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss. Here also is pointed out the rock from which our Saviour predicted the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple,—that dreadful visitation, of which the traces are still most visible both within and around the walls. The curious pilgrim is further edified by the sight of a cavern where the apostles were taught the Lord's Prayer; and of another where the same individuals at a later period met together to compose their Creed. On the principal top of the Mount of Olives,--for the elevated ground presents three separate summits,-are a mosque and the remains of a church. The former is distinguished by a lofty minaret which commands an extensive prospect ; but the latter is esteemed more remarkable, as containing the piece of rock imprinted with the mark of our Saviour's foot while in the act of ascension.
But the view of the venerable metropolis itself, which stretches out its lanes and sacred enclosures under the eye of the traveller, is still more interesting than the recapitulation of ambiguous relics. It occupies an irregular square
of about two miles and a half in circumference. Eusebius gave a measurement of twenty-seven stadia, amounting to nearly a mile more than its present dimensions; a difference which can easily be explained, by adverting to the alterations made on the line of fortifications by the Saracens and Turks, especially on the north-west and western extremities of the town. Its shortest apparent side is that which faces the east, and in this is the supposed gate of the ancient Temple, shut up by the Mussulmans from a superstitious motive, and the small projecting stone on which their prophet is to sit when he shall judge the world assembled in the vale below. The southern side is exceedingly irregular, taking quite a zigzag direction ; the southwestern entrance being terminated by a mosque built over the supposed sepulchre of David, on the elevation of Mount Zion. The form and exact direction of the western and northern walls are not distinctly seen from the position now assumed; but every part of them appears to be a modern work, and executed at the same time. They are flanked at certain distances by square towers, and have battlements all along their summits, with loopholes for arrows or musketry close to the top. Their height is about fifty feet, but they are not surrounded by a ditch. The northern wall runs over ground which declines slightly outward; the eastern wall passes straight along the brow of Mount Moriah, with the deep valley of Jehoshaphat below; the southern wall crosses Mount Zion, with the vale of Hinnom at its feet; and the western wall is carried over a more uniform level, near the summit of the bare hills which terminate at the Jaffa gate.*
* Buckingham, vol. i. p. 316.-The following words, put into the mouth of Titus by the eloquent author of the “Fall of Jerusalem,” will be read with interest in connexion with the view just given. The son of Vespasian stands on the Mount of Olives :
“ It must be
Turning towards the east, the traveller sees at the foot of the hill the little village of Bethany, so often mentioned in the history of our Lord and of his personal followers ; and at a greater distance, a little more on the left, he beholds the magnificent scenery of the Jordan and the Dead Sea.
There are two roads from Jerusalem to Bethany; the one passing over the Mount of Olives; the other, the shorter and easier, winding round the eastern side of it. This village is now both small and poor, the cultivation of the soil around it being very much neglected by the indolent Arabs into whose hands it has fallen. Here are shown the ruins of a house, said to have belonged to Lazarus whom our Saviour raised from the dead; and, in the immediate neighbourhood, the faithful pilgrim is invited to devotion in a grotto, which is represented as the actual tomb wherein
Is hung with marble fabrics, line on line,
The offended majesty of Rome to mercy.” Old Sandys, a simple and amusing writer, describes Jerusalem as follows:-“This citie, once sacred and glorious, elected by God for his seate, and seated in the midst of nations,-like a diadem crowning the head of the mountaines,-the theatre of mysteries and miracles,-was founded by Melchisedek (who is said to be the son of Noah, and that not unprobably) about the year of the world 2023, and called Salem (by the Gentiles Solyma), which signifyeth Peace: who reigned here fifty years. This citie is seated on a rockie mountaine; every way to be ascended (except a little on the north) with steep ascents and deep valleys naturally fortified; for the most part environed with other not far removed mountaines, as if placed in the midst of an amphitheater."--Lib. iii. p. 154.