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The Visitatio Sepulchri in the Latin Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Al-Masaq, Vol. 22, No. 1 (2010)
Abstract: The presentation of the Visitatio Sepulchri scene by the Augustinian canons of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre brought it, for the first time, to its original locus. The popular ritual re-enacts the dialogue between the women and the angel/s at the empty tomb, and the annunciation of the resurrection of Christ. The Jerusalem ritual was modelled upon the Western European dramatic ritual, but its presentation in Anastasis in Jerusalem, on Easter morning, was not a straightforward act of relocating Western liturgy into the recently recovered Catholic centre in the east. Based on a study of a liturgical manuscript from the Holy Sepulchre, the paper examines the ways this and other rituals employ the space of the newly built Crusader church, and the ways in which the Frankish liturgy interacts with the composite audience of 12th-century Jerusalem.
Holy Week commemorates the last days of Christ’s earthly presence, from his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his crucifixion and resurrection. The ritual ceremonies celebrated during this week form a central sequence in the Christian liturgy. In Jerusalem, these ceremonies are celebrated not only at the same time of the year, but also in the very places where the events of Christ’s passion originally took place. The exciting conjunction of time and place has been extolled by pilgrims to Jerusalem ever Egeria’s travelogue of the fourth century, and was aptly summarised by Jonathan Z. Smith: “In Jerusalem story, ritual and place could be one.”