Join 3,513 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The ladder of no opportunity.
June 1, 2011 5:19 PM   Subscribe

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, built on or close to Golgotha, has a very interesting administrative structure, formalised in an 1852 Ottoman Status Quo edict. Illustrative of the bureaucratic strictures on management of the church is this ladder, immovably stuck on an upstairs window. But wait, did somebody move it? via
posted by wilful (56 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I sense the opportunity for a motivational book aimed at corporate America.
posted by GuyZero at 5:21 PM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


It would unbelievably hilarious if it turns out that one image is just mirrored.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:24 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The last time I was there in 2007, the priest who was admitting people to Jesus' tomb had a hilarious way of telling people who mistakenly felt they should take their shoes off, to put them back on.
posted by gman at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would unbelievably hilarious if it turns out that one image is just mirrored.

that was my very first thought.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2011


If you move the ladder, Altair will be pissed.
posted by Paragon at 5:31 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole edifice is carefully parceled into sections, some being commonly shared while others belonging strictly to a particular sect. A set of complicated rules governs the transit rights of the other groups through each particular section on any given day, and especially during the holidays.

I would like details. I might need to start a new game of Nomic.
posted by cortex at 5:32 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apparently wooden ladders remain in good condition 160+ years outdoors.
posted by stbalbach at 5:34 PM on June 1, 2011


Not getting much rain might help on that.
posted by brokkr at 5:37 PM on June 1, 2011


It's not mirrored; you can see the little railing in front of the ladder isn't in the left side on the "other side" window.

Personally, I would like to think this is someone fucking with another sect, just to go "yeah, look at us, wooo". But I have no idea.
posted by jscott at 5:43 PM on June 1, 2011


Yeah that and the Holy.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2011


Apparently wooden ladders remain in good condition 160+ years outdoors.

He mentions that it must be replaced when it rots.
posted by Jehan at 5:45 PM on June 1, 2011


Could it be... JESUS??
posted by orthogonality at 5:46 PM on June 1, 2011


How else are you going to clean the windows?
posted by filthy light thief at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2011


Apparently wooden ladders remain in good condition 160+ years outdoors.

According to Simon Goldhill in the book Jerusalem, on page 13 it states that the ladder is repaired occasionally.

I haven't seen the book, pg. 13 isn't available on Google books, but that's what I'm told.
posted by wilful at 5:50 PM on June 1, 2011


orthogonality: Could it be... JESUS??

No, no, no, you're doing it all wrong.

Who could it be? Hmm.. SATAN?
posted by filthy light thief at 5:52 PM on June 1, 2011


People talk about a two state solution, an end to the endless conflict, Middle East peace, but then we find out these people can't even agree on who owns a damn ladder.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:56 PM on June 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I sense the opportunity for a motivational book aimed at corporate America.

Actually GuyZero, if you check my via link (where I admit I totally stole this post idea from) the economist who blogs this draws this point from this story:
The immovable ladder is a nice metaphor for decision making with large groups or within complex systems of rules or regulations. Satisfying them all can be hard. And when the obstacles are not ‘hard’ ones, they can be soft sociological ones. Within bureaucracies one is ill-advised to offend anyone gravely – often even if they’re not very important. People don’t like other people getting their noses seriously out of joint and will go to some lengths to preserve harmony and consensus. So the immovable ladder goes into my slide pack to illustrate the problems of paralysis by serial veto.
posted by wilful at 5:56 PM on June 1, 2011


This is really cool. Thanks for posting. I went back to the pic I took there last winter and voilá, there's the ladder. It's really neat when someone points you to a detail that you wouldn't notice otherwise.

In other news, the Church is one of the most peculiar buildings I've ever been. It's arguably the most important building in Christianity, but it's downright ugly, and the internal configuration is totally byzantine (no pun intended). I spent 20 minutes inside and I was dizzy when I came out - it's like Escher, Kafka and Borges got together and decided to design a building piece by piece over the course of 500 years. Nonetheless, it's totally worth the visit.
posted by falameufilho at 6:03 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love how everyone just goes with the story that this really is Jesus's tomb. I doubt the City Archeologist of Jerusalem is going to point out that there's absolutely 0 historical reason to believe it. He'd probably be killed if he said otherwise.
posted by empath at 6:36 PM on June 1, 2011


Also, I guess the protestants don't get a piece?
posted by empath at 6:37 PM on June 1, 2011


Actually empath, there's pretty solid evidence to show that on the balance of probabilities this Church is likely to be in the right place. It was first located there in about 350 CE.

Of course the protestants get nothing.
posted by wilful at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2011


There are so many pics of monks getting on their argy-bargy in that church, but this pic is one of my favourites, if only for the interesting array of headgear.
posted by meehawl at 6:46 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was reminded of something from the first lab I ever worked in,

At least in biology, as a rule, YOU DON'T TOUCH OTHER PEOPLES SHIT. Unless of course its by prior arrangement, its in a common or your area, its your shit too, or some other mutually understood allowance. There is a reason for this general expectation, that is, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT OTHER PEOPLES SHIT IS. That eppendorf tube left seemingly discarded and open on the corner of your area of the bench making everything look so much less neat could easily be a nucleic acid precipitate I've left to dry while I get a celebratory E5*J, *, that took me months to make. This of course doesn't generally apply to shit left in common areas, and sometimes disappears as lab-mates get to know each other and each others research better, but the onus is always on the person disturbing the thing they didn't make in the area they don't need to use.

In this lab, I and three friends were trained as undergraduate researchers by four people who had entered the lab in the same way two years earlier. At one point early on I asked about a sign on the 37°C incubator describing how some plates, which wern't there, should be left alone because they were going to be picked up tomorrow. Apparently it was left more than a year ago, at the time and now many more years, by the one of the four who didn't show up as much. The other three didn't want to throw it away because it wasn't theirs and never remembered to give the guy shit about it when he was around, so it just stayed there. That is until it became my turn to introduce new undergrads into the lab with them gone. I then realized it was the perfect way to explain why not to touch my stuff. My understanding is, that like this ladder, the sign is still there today, getting a bit dry and crinkly in the heat, but with the tape replaced every now and then.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:59 PM on June 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


So years ago, my mother and I took a trip to Israel. My mother, an artist and avid art-seer, took us to every single church she could find. In one of them, she managed to snap a picture of one of the priests cleaning the church's donation box. To say the least, he was unenthused when he discovered my mother had snapped a photo of this man of God shoveling a pile of shekels into a big burlap sack.
posted by griphus at 6:59 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually empath, there's pretty solid evidence to show that on the balance of probabilities this Church is likely to be in the right place. It was first located there in about 350 CE.

Not that I don't think that Constantine's mother tripping over a buried cross is a great reason to believe everything she ever said, but this is seriously like saying that since Thomas Jefferson thought bleeding people was a great idea, that's just solid medicine.

There is no more reason to believe St. Helena than there is to believe that Lamarck was right about heredity or that Ussher was right about cosmology.
posted by Copronymus at 7:01 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually empath, there's pretty solid evidence to show that on the balance of probabilities this Church is likely to be in the right place.
Sounds interesting. Like what?
It was first located there in about 350 CE.
I hope this is not the sum total. The fact that someone 300+ years removed from the supposed events made a claim is not, in and of itself, "pretty solid evidence".
posted by Flunkie at 7:05 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


just check my first link.
posted by wilful at 7:15 PM on June 1, 2011


I read somewhere that a soap brush almost started a big bru ha-ha concerning territory with-in the holy site.
posted by clavdivs at 7:21 PM on June 1, 2011


just check my first link.

For real. It's an interesting read! It also explains the FPP you're commenting on.

But, if you're still too lazy: There is reasonable historical (non-religious) evidence that the site of the church has been treated as the site of Jesus' tomb since the 1st century BC. This of course isn't proof that it's the real location (or that such a location even exists), but it's not like someone in the 12th century just arbitrarily decided to put a church there. This goes back right to the beginning of Christianity.
posted by auto-correct at 7:23 PM on June 1, 2011


None of that sounds like "pretty solid evidence" to me:So? This implies it was the tomb of Jesus how? A lot of tombs exist.Tenuous speculation, not "solid evidence".Claim by people hundreds of years later, at least one of whom (Eusebius) is considered by at least some major historians to be unreputable and dishonest.So? It's quite a stretch to say "therefore it's where Jesus was buried".It "could" indicate that, huh? I guess it could. Not exactly "solid evidence".
The local tradition of the community would have been scrutinized carefully when Constantine set out to build his church in 326 AD, because the chosen site was inconvenient and expensive. Substantial buildings had to be torn down, most notably the temple built over the site by Hadrian. Just to the south was a spot that would have been otherwise perfect - the open space of Hadrian's forum.Again, tenuous at best, and frankly just conjecture, not "solid evidence". And seriously, if we're going to say "Hadrian built a Temple of Venus there because it was (assumedly) a holy Christian place that he wanted to claim for his religion", why do we not even consider the possibility that Constantine wanted to claim a holy Venusian place for his religion?
  • The eyewitness historian Eusebius claimed that in the course of the excavations, the original memorial was discovered. However, he also claimed that all three crosses (those of Jesus and the two thieves) were found at the site, which seems less likely. (Life of Constantine 3:28)
Again, Eusebius is often thought to be a liar. And even this bullet point is saying so.
posted by Flunkie at 7:31 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually don't give a rats clacker whether the church is appropriately located or not. But a few people who know more than you or me (archaeologists not religious sorts) about this seem to believe it to be so.
posted by wilful at 7:35 PM on June 1, 2011


Jihad! or Crusade! in this case.
posted by dibblda at 7:35 PM on June 1, 2011


Well, if you can find an example of such a person who knows more than me or you giving "pretty solid evidence" that this is where Jesus was buried, I would definitely be interested in hearing it.
posted by Flunkie at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2011


jesus dude. Enough already.

The Israeli scholar Dan Bahat, former City Archaeologist of Jerusalem, has said this of the church:

"We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus' burial, but we have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site."[2]

posted by wilful at 7:50 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The City Archeologist of Jerusalem's job is to bring religious tourist dollars into Jerusalem.

There's no archeological evidence Jesus existed at all, let alone that that church was where he was buried.
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been to some normally out of bounds areas within the Church where archeologists have poked holes in the foundations to the remnants of the old quarry. There is some evidence on the old quarry walls of early christian worship perhaps going back to the first century. The evidence is not solid though, and could have been forged.
posted by humanfont at 7:54 PM on June 1, 2011


"and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity"


Basically the same argument that the 'greys' have landed and are amongst us, well you can't prove that they are not here.... so they must be real.
posted by sammyo at 7:55 PM on June 1, 2011


This is really OT triviality, I withdraw from this issue.
posted by wilful at 7:56 PM on June 1, 2011


I, too, have a strongly held uninformed lay opinion about where Jesus did or did not die.
posted by cortex at 7:59 PM on June 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


jesus dude. Enough already.
?

I genuinely would be interested in seeing "pretty strong evidence" that this is where Jesus was buried. You said that there was "pretty strong evidence". So I asked to see it. Don't get mad at me just because you don't have any.
posted by Flunkie at 8:02 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read The Jesus family Tomb by Jacobovici forward by James Cameron.
interesting.

Secrets of the Dead had a good show on this and supports humanfonts comment. The area was used as a quarry and tomb location in the first century.
posted by clavdivs at 8:25 PM on June 1, 2011


There are number of issues with the location of the Church. First Jerusalem was razed and rebuilt by the Romans after the Jewish revolt in AD 70. The exterior walls of the city were relocated and a temple was built on top of the location of the Church. The building was recycled by Helena. Second the original tomb has long since been obliterated and replaced. The current tomb dates to victorian times iirc. There is nothing left of the rolling stone tomb that would have existed at the time (though there are some bits of other tombs remaining on the site).

The location of the walls of the city at the time of Christ is disputed by a number of archeologists. Crucifixions happened outside the city gates and we know at some point prior to 70 AD the quarry was in the city given the discovery of wall remnants north of Damascus gate. The walls of the "old city" are from Ottoman times, so they are not particularly useful either. If the quarry was outside the walls at the time of the crucifixion then it is a good candidate site, however if the walls were further out, then a site like Gordon's Tomb might be a better candidate.

On the other hand the people at Gordon's Tomb are a bunch of weirdos and they charge a fee to get in. The COHS has centuries of tradition behind going back to early Christianity. Also if you really want a show come for Orthodox easter and check out holy fire.
posted by humanfont at 8:55 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is reasonable historical (non-religious) evidence that the site of the church has been treated as the site of Jesus' tomb since the 1st century BC.

That's remarkably foresighted of them.
posted by mhoye at 9:04 PM on June 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


filthy light thief: "How else are you going to clean the windows?"

Close them, power off and then open them again.

Oops. Wrong tab. Sorry...
posted by Splunge at 9:07 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to Simon Goldhill in the book Jerusalem, on page 13 it states that the ladder is repaired occasionally.

I haven't seen the book, pg. 13 isn't available on Google books, but that's what I'm told.


from p.13:

As the ladder rots, it is replaced with an exact copy--so that there is always the ladder that was always there.
posted by nzero at 9:29 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this; I wonder what the story is. Interesting that even archaeologists haven't been able to just ask the clergy who live there what their version of the story is.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:47 PM on June 1, 2011


Hell, if that church is like, I don't know, walking distance from the supposedly original spot than that's pretty damn close isn't it? I mean, what the hell are you guys making this argument about? Some people who go through a ridiculous amount of rituals on a specific piece of earth instead of a couple of hundred meters down the road?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:53 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


So my first full day in Jerusalem I'm wandering around with a liberal, nonreligious Midwestern Jew I met in the Meat Burger the night before. We're trying to provide colour commentary to each other, she covering the Jewish stuff and my lapsed/ex-Catholic background trying to fill in the Christian stuff.

We walk into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (I didn't know of the ladder at the time, although I did learn about it in time to come back and see it). There's this slab of marble-or-something on the floor in the entry way, and people are carrying on about it big time. Incense waving priests, people kneeling and kissing it, and so on. I have no idea what the deal is on this rock. Then we look at the back wall of the entrance; there's this beautiful, intricate mosaic. It's a crowd scene, of random people I don't know. And there's Jesus in the middle. It's post Crucifixion, and he's been taken down and laid out to be prepared for burial. On this stone slab. This familiar looking stone slab.

Everywhere else in Christendom, such a mosaic would be "This is the story of Jesus"; in Jerusalem, it's just "You are here."
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:02 AM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


As the dogma rots, it is replaced with an exact copy--so that there is always the dogma that was always there.

posted by Splunge at 12:03 AM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Stone of Anointing, also known as The Stone of Unction, which tradition claims to be the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. However, this tradition is only attested since the crusader era, and the present stone was only added in the 1810 reconstruction.
posted by zaelic at 5:37 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is Zoltar. I had a class at hebrew u that was about the old city so we met IN the old city and spent a lot of time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. I was much more familiar with the more, shall we say sedate, iconography and statuary of the Roman Catholic Church. And some of the Eastern icons they have in there are a bit different, I think, even for that style. So-there's a department store mannequin dressed like a "gypsy" in a plexiglaass booth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchure has a Zoltar Icon.
posted by atomicstone at 7:58 AM on June 2, 2011


I still think it's funny that for many generations, a group of Muslims kept the keys to the church.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:50 AM on June 2, 2011


Here are some of my pictures from Easter Sunday of the Armenians and Greek Orthodox in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

I believe one of the groups in the church (the Greek Orthodox?) were actually celebrating a different holiday than Easter, but I can't figure out what that would be from google.
posted by andoatnp at 5:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Syrian Orthodox church is kinda nifty all on its own. Before the rise of Islam, it was one of the largest churches in Christianity and its missionaries traveled as far as China and Japan, centuries before the Catholics arrived. They also lay claim to the oldest Christian liturgy. (Eastern United States Diocese)
posted by Atreides at 6:58 PM on June 2, 2011


The Armenian Church is the oldest continuous church, though I don't know about their liturgy.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2011


I believe one of the groups in the church (the Greek Orthodox?) were actually celebrating a different holiday than Easter,

andoatnp, while the Greek Orthodox calendar isn't aligned with the western one, they do coincide regularly enough. I know this because my Greek neighbour would give us Tsoureki at their easter, and this was sometimes our easter too.

If the orthodox celebration wasn't easter, it still would have been here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_liturgical_calendar
posted by wilful at 11:01 PM on June 2, 2011


« Older The Global Commission on Drug Policy is the latest...  |  "Today, at the D9 Conference, ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments