A modern day pilgrim from England to Jerusalem has it easy. It's a four-hour El Al flight from Heathrow to Ben Gurion airport, then fifty minutes on a bus or in a taxi to Jerusalem. No need for a visa: the friendly official at passport control will give you a small piece of paper with your photograph on it to keep in your passport. Once in Jerusalem, there is a range of comfortable hotels to choose from.
When one thinks of the same journey undertaken by medieval pilgrims, as described by Colin Morris in The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West; from the beginning to 1600, a sense almost of of guilt sets in. Eight hundred years ago, a journey by sea was quite likely to result in drowning, or at least attacks by pirates; overland, the bandits were lurking. Whichever way, the journey would have taken months and was only for the very rich. Further problems were created after 1187 when Saladin seized the city from the Crusaders. Of course, the suffering was part of what it meant to be a pilgrim. Now there are few pilgrims, but many tourists, who will demand compensation if any suffering is involved.
Colin Morris's book is very much at the heart of what I am writing about in this section, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. What comes over is the profound effect a Jerusalem pilgrimage had on the those who made it and returned home. Their lives were changed, but an almost unanswerable problem then was how to remember the experience. They could bring back a relic, write about their journey, and tell others, but that was all. Now, we come back with a vast array of digital photographs and video, and can watch a guided tour on Youtube whenever we wanted to.
One solution then was to attempt to recreate Jerusalem at home, and in particular the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the focus of the pilgrimage. This could involve building what amounted to a replica of that church, or it could simply be creating a special space as the centre of Easter devotion, containing reminders of that special place. In this study I'll be looking at a range of such places that my wife and I have visited, starting with the Holy Sepulchre itself, and including the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre here in Winchester Cathedral - a much easier pilgrimage!
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem