Mizpah and more of Jerusalem's Sites
Nov. 17th, Tuesday
Only a few more days of tent life! On horseback about ½ 7 for excursions to Mizpah. First went to see Church of the Virgin in the valley of Cedron. It is almost like a subterranean Church though rubbish and debris accumulate around. A flight of abt. 50 broad marble steps leads down into the Church. It is very dark; but innumerable lamps are hung about. But, as few of them were lighted, it was some time before we could make out anything. The form of the place is just two large and massive arches intersecting each other and forming a cross as usual. The Virgin's tomb is shown on same plan (somewhat) as that of Jesus. Lots of marble tracery and gilt work about; but difficult to distinguish owing to dimness of light. 'Tis said to be the oldest Church in the world.
It is not far from Garden of Gethsemane, and there is a grotto shown, said to be scene of Christ's agony. Monks played us a trick here, locking door, expecting one would pay them to open it. We declined.
Got on horse again, and went to Tombs of Kings, abt. ¼ mile from city. Enter sort of sq. courtyard cut out of rock, and, over entrance to tomb, a large portico with sculptured work round. The entrance to tomb is small, and consists of many compartments about 12' sq. with two tiers of longitudinal cavities just large enough for a body, cut in all round. The stone to close the entrance is very interesting. It is a thick, flat stone lying in a groove along side of opening, and passed over and from it like a slide or running gate. Originally, it would appear that the entrance and door groove were arched, or covered over with stakes, and that when the door was in situ it was kept there by skotches behind, and, to remove this, a small tunnel, leading out of a deep pit in front of the entrance, right into, or behind, the door groove is provided; so that, when the stone was secure, before entrance, a man would crawl up said passage and remove the pins or skotch and then return and slide away the stone, the whole design showing great carefulness to exclude all improper persons. Went on and saw tombs of Judges, similar to other; but different entrance was provided, with stone door swinging on pivots and secured within - so that possibly there is a second outlet as well.
Continued our journey on to Mizpah. Country hilly, dreary and stony. Mizpah is on high hill. It has a mosque on top, with a few huts surrounding it. It was formerly a Church, built by the Crusaders, who took the hill for Bethel! Went in mosque and enjoyed the view. In W. Bethoram and the plain leading on to Joppa, with sea beyond. W. mountains of Benjamin, with Atara, Ramah, Gibeah and Gederah, and mountains of Gilead and Moab on E. and Jerusalem and other places with hills of Judaea. From all these prominences one cannot but be struck with the smallness of the country, compared with its wonderful history, and the great events that have transpired there.
Got to camp at ½ 1 ready for lunch. In afternoon went into city but did nothing particular. Dr Deass has a scarce seal, perhaps the only one having on it representation of Beelzebub, Prince of the Powers of the Air. He got it for abt. a piastre with other antiques, and B. Museum have offered him 1000 dollars for it. Saw impressions.
Breakfast at 7. Went through City with Floyd to Jews' meeting place, being the side of Temple wall. A few large stones in it but nothing remarkable. Smaller and less inspiring than I expected to see. Robinson and I went into Jews' quarter - more dirty and mean than the others, and people to match. Went into old Synagogue, a moderate sized square room with small dome. A raised platform in centre, and small recess at E. end.
Saw one man wearing his phylactery. Went to their Mt Zion and saw David's tomb. Just allowed to look through grating and see a curtain which covers entrance to tomb. A room supported with columns shown us where Jesus instituted his Supper, and went into Armenian Church where St James was beheaded and buried. In afternoon wrote letter and walked round walls, coming in thro' St Stephen's Gate. In evening to hear Mr Blake's lecture. A great discussion in Saloon tent about a day's ... and Backsheech.