Copyright 1998 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.

Photography by the Author except where noted.

For Christmas 1995 my wife gave me a weekly calendar called "The Jerusalem Calendar 1996, A Celebration Of 3,000 Years." Each week was accompanied by an illustration depicting a historic site in Jerusalem or an event in the city's past. Most were old paintings, drawings or maps. Opposite the first week of January was an 1862 watercolor of the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Carl Friedrich Heinrich Werner.1 When I showed it to a friend he asked about a small ladder just below one of the windows above the entrance. The ladder rests on a ledge that spans the arches above two doorways built by the Crusaders in the 12th century (the right hand doorway is sealed and has been so for 800 years). I hadn't paid much attention to the ladder but his question aroused my curiosity.

During three visits to Jerusalem in recent years2 I have taken many photographs of the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Upon examination of my pictures I found the same small ladder in every single photo.

Main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - last rebuilt by the
Crusaders in the 12th century. Note the ladder just below the right
hand window above the entrance. December, 1992.

Not only does the ladder appear in all of my pictures, it also appears in every published photo and drawing of the entrance to the church dating back to before 1840 when David Roberts, a British illustrator, toured Israel, Egypt and other middle east countries and left a record of his travels in the form of a series of paintings.3 One of his paintings captured the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - and the ladder.4 All other 19th century paintings and photographs, like the one in the calendar, have also captured the ladder.

19th Century images of the ladder. Clockwise from upper left: 1835, 1840, 1857, 1858, 1862 and 1870s. For additional historic photos showing the ladder visit the Historic Photo Gallery.

I became very curious about this ladder. Who did it belong to? Why was it there? How long had it been there? The answers were not easy to find.

The Church and the Ladder: Frozen in Time
Continues on Page 2

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