Part 2. The Pillars of the Entrance to the Church and the Southern Wall


Michael E. Stone (Jerusalem), Khachik A. Harutyunyan
The southern entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is decorated with 11 marble pillars, which were erected about nine centuries ago, and today they are presented to us almost unharmed. These pillars and the whole entrance are rightly considered to be one of the finest works of architecture of the Crusades period. We have designated the pillars by numbers 1-11 from left to right for easiness. On the outside, there is also one more pillar on the right side of the stairs ascending to Golgotha, which is the twelfth pillar.

On all the mentioned pillars there are inscriptions in different languages (Greek, Arabic, Assyrian, Georgian, Latin) inscribed by pilgrims and visitors, including also a great number of Armenian inscriptions, in which mainly the names of pilgrims are mentioned, and sometimes inscriptions consisting of one or two sentences are discerned.

It should be noted, that in the course of the time various signs, letters, sentences, one incised on the other, countless touches of pilgrims (even today the same phenomenon is noticed) make some inscriptions on the pillars extremely difficult to decipher at present, and some of them have been badly damaged and one or two letters are barely discerned, thus, giving an opportunity to decipher at least the language of the inscription.

There are also Armenian inscriptions on the outside wall (southern) of the church at full length of the stairs, ascending to Golgotha. All those inscriptions, as a rule, are scratched by some sharp instrument; they are not distinguished with proportionality and regularity, although in separate cases also a more serious approach and regularity can be noticed.

In total, we have found more than sixty inscriptions on the mentioned pillars and wall. In this article we present only 22 of them. In some cases, we have tried to date the inscriptions by their paleographical features or due to the identification of the mentioned persons.