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TOMBS OF THE KINGS.
bought antiquities of this kind by weight, and trafficked with them, I went with my dragoman to the one whom he pointed out to me as doing most business, and begged him to bring me whatever he had curious and rare. On the next day but one, the fellow came very mysteriously to bring me an old piece of copper, assuring me that it was a fragment of the ancient gilded gate leading to the Temple, through which our Lord passed on Palm-Sunday. He could not have told me any thing more false and absurd : I was not his dupe. The air of sincerity with which he talked to me disguised something more than cunning. This brazier was a Greek.
After the excursions of which I have just given you an account, I determined to visit the Tombs of the Kings and those of the Judges, and devoted yesterday to this purpose.
The Tombs of the Kings are about a quarter of a league from the holy city. On going out at the Damascus gate, after proceeding some distance along a stony road, whence the eye perceives here and there a few olive-trees planted in a rocky and sterile soil, you descend by a rapid slope into a kind of nearly square court, the sides of which, hewn out of the rock, exhibit the appearance of four absolutely perpendicular walls, fourteen or fifteen feet high. On one of the sides is a high doorway, above which ornaments in relievo represent palm-trees with their foliage, grapes and other fruit.
On the left, at the farther end, is a corridor, now so choked up that you cannot get into it without crawling on all-fours. At the extremity of this passage is a very sloping path, which leads to a room, hewn out of the rock
TOMBS OF THE KINGS.
itself. In the walls are niches, six feet long and three wide, destined to hold coffins. This room communicates by three doors with seven others, likewise hollowed out of the rock for the same purpose. The coffins which they contained were of stone, and adorned with arabesques. Some others exist entire, and there are the relics of a few more. The doors of these abodes of death are constructed of the same stone, as well as the hinges. I observed but one that was not broken ; of the others nothing is left but scattered fragments.
It is not easy to assign precisely the period to which these tombs belong; at any rate, notwithstanding the name that is given them by popular tradition, it is evident that they could not have served for the burialplace of the kings of Judah, since, according to the Bible, those princes were interred in Jerusalem or on Mount Sion. Besides, a glance at these monuments is sufficient to convince us that they are of a less ancient date. Several travellers, on the authority of a passage in Josephus, have concluded that they were constructed by command of Helena, queen of Adiabene, and that this princess was interred in them. Some, grounding their opinion on another passage in Josephus, have conjectured that they were the work of Herod, the tetrarch, who had them hewn for himself and his family. A simple pilgrim, I leave the learned to clear up and resolve the doubts to which the diversity of opinions on this subject has given rise.
Some months ago, a foreigner conceived the design of removing the finest of the coffins from these sepulchral chambers, and conveying it to Jaffa, to be there em
TOMBS OF THE KINGS.
barked for Alexandria. The enterprise was the more difficult, inasmuch as it was necessary to communicate the secret to several persons. However, by dint of money and perseverance, he succeeded in abstracting the coffin from the place where it had lain for so many ages; and he was already upon the road with his prize, borne on the backs of camels, when he received intelligence that the governor of Jerusalem, informed of the bold theft, had issued orders to stop the party. Soon afterwards, the sound of approaching horsemen actually proclaimed the danger which he was incurring; he had but just time to drop the sarcophagus, by cutting the ropes which bound it upon the camels, and to betake himself to flight under favour of the darkness. I have frequently seen and examined this beautiful coffin, in the middle of the road where it still lies, without any one daring to touch it. At the time of the coming of the Egyptians, I might perhaps have been able to obtain permission to remove and to send it to Europe ; but Lent approached, and other thoughts engaged my mind. Besides, the person who had taken so much pains, and gone to such an expense to possess himself of it, might hope to succeed, by means of proper representations to Ibrahim, in executing his project, and it would have been mortifying to him to find himself anticipated by another.
This sarcophagus is of white marble, adorned with basso-relievos of great beauty, but not exhibiting any figure of men or animals; they represent nothing but foliage, vines, and flowers.
A quarter of a league from the Tombs of the Kings, are situated those of the Judges of Israel. They are of
TOMBS OF THE KINGS.
the same kind as the preceding, but less magnificent. The entrance is surmounted by a triglyph, a considerable but tasteless work, placed in a spacious square hall, which serves as a communication to an infinity of chambers; in the walls of which are hewn various niches, one above another, all destined, like those already described, for the reception of coffins.
There is nothing to justify the appellation by which these tombs are known, and all that is circulated on this subject appears to me to be wholly destitute of foundation,
One thing to be remarked is, that the great number of these sepulchres, constructed in one spot, evidently shows that they were not the property of a single family. In going through them, one is never tired of admiring the magnitude of the work, and one is astonished that the mallet and the chisel could have sufficed for forming such excavations in the hardest rocks.
ABODB IN THE HOLY SEPULCHRE DURING THE THREE DAYS PRECEDING Ash-WEDNESDAY.
Jerusalem, March 10th, 1832. On the approach of Lent, I intended at first to shut myself up, during the whole time that it lasted, in the church of the Holy Sepulchre ; but I should have been obliged to suspend my excursions about Jerusalem, at the risk of not being able to resume them afterwards; I should have been obliged to do too much violence to the
VISITS TO THE HOLY SEPULCHRE.
most favourite of the habits which I have here contracted, that of regularly visiting the places which call to my remembrance the most painful circumstances of my Saviour's passion. I had, besides, a motive which, though of secondary interest, was not without importance in my estimation. Several Arab workmen are at this moment engaged in making for me various objects of piety that I wish to carry with me to Europe ; objects whose value is daily rising, in proportion as the concourse of pilgrims of different nations increases, and as the orders from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, are becoming more numerous. I was anxious to watch the work, to hasten it, to see that it was properly executed, and that it experienced no interruption. These considerations decided me to change the plan which I had formed. I shall visit the Holy Sepulchre every day that it shall be open in Lent; but I shall not shut myself up in it till the last fortnight, and I shall leave it at Easter. I have determined at any rate to pass there, in absolute seclusion, the last days of that season which the world calls the Carnival ; that is to say, the three days preceding Ash-Wednesday; and I shall therefore go in on Saturday.
In these days of riot, when worldlings seem to know no other temples than assembly-rooms and theatres, to have no other deities than pleasure and licentiousness, I felt a powerful impulse to ascend Calvary; to make penitential atonement for the vices of sinners, and particularly for the part which formerly I had, alas ! myself the misfortune to take in these criminal gratifications. It was for me a precious occasion for testifying my regret, my repentance, and for deriving from deep meditation those