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Mark Twain > Innocents Abroad > Chapter LIV

Innocents Abroad

Chapter LIV

We were standing in a narrow street, by the Tower of Antonio. "On these
stones that are crumbling away," the guide said, "the Saviour sat and
rested before taking up the cross. This is the beginning of the
Sorrowful Way, or the Way of Grief." The party took note of the sacred
spot, and moved on. We passed under the "Ecce Homo Arch," and saw the
very window from which Pilate's wife warned her husband to have nothing
to do with the persecution of the Just Man. This window is in an
excellent state of preservation, considering its great age. They showed
us where Jesus rested the second time, and where the mob refused to give
him up, and said, "Let his blood be upon our heads, and upon our
children's children forever." The French Catholics are building a church
on this spot, and with their usual veneration for historical relics, are
incorporating into the new such scraps of ancient walls as they have
found there. Further on, we saw the spot where the fainting Saviour fell
under the weight of his cross. A great granite column of some ancient
temple lay there at the time, and the heavy cross struck it such a blow
that it broke in two in the middle. Such was the guide's story when he
halted us before the broken column.

We crossed a street, and came presently to the former residence of St.
Veronica. When the Saviour passed there, she came out, full of womanly
compassion, and spoke pitying words to him, undaunted by the hootings and
the threatenings of the mob, and wiped the perspiration from his face
with her handkerchief. We had heard so much of St. Veronica, and seen
her picture by so many masters, that it was like meeting an old friend
unexpectedly to come upon her ancient home in Jerusalem. The strangest
thing about the incident that has made her name so famous, is, that when
she wiped the perspiration away, the print of the Saviour's face remained
upon the handkerchief, a perfect portrait, and so remains unto this day.
We knew this, because we saw this handkerchief in a cathedral in Paris,
in another in Spain, and in two others in Italy. In the Milan cathedral
it costs five francs to see it, and at St. Peter's, at Rome, it is almost
impossible to see it at any price. No tradition is so amply verified as
this of St. Veronica and her handkerchief.

At the next corner we saw a deep indention in the hard stone masonry of
the corner of a house, but might have gone heedlessly by it but that the
guide said it was made by the elbow of the Saviour, who stumbled here and
fell. Presently we came to just such another indention in a stone wall.
The guide said the Saviour fell here, also, and made this depression with
his elbow.

There were other places where the Lord fell, and others where he rested;
but one of the most curious landmarks of ancient history we found on this
morning walk through the crooked lanes that lead toward Calvary, was a
certain stone built into a house--a stone that was so seamed and scarred
that it bore a sort of grotesque resemblance to the human face. The
projections that answered for cheeks were worn smooth by the passionate
kisses of generations of pilgrims from distant lands. We asked "Why?"
The guide said it was because this was one of "the very stones of
Jerusalem" that Christ mentioned when he was reproved for permitting the
people to cry "Hosannah!" when he made his memorable entry into the
city upon an ass. One of the pilgrims said, "But there is no evidence
that the stones did cry out--Christ said that if the people stopped from
shouting Hosannah, the very stones would do it." The guide was perfectly
serene. He said, calmly, "This is one of the stones that would have
cried out. "It was of little use to try to shake this fellow's simple
faith--it was easy to see that.

And so we came at last to another wonder, of deep and abiding interest--
the veritable house where the unhappy wretch once lived who has been
celebrated in song and story for more than eighteen hundred years as the
Wandering Jew. On the memorable day of the Crucifixion he stood in this
old doorway with his arms akimbo, looking out upon the struggling mob
that was approaching, and when the weary Saviour would have sat down and
rested him a moment, pushed him rudely away and said, "Move on!" The
Lord said, "Move on, thou, likewise," and the command has never been
revoked from that day to this. All men know how that the miscreant upon
whose head that just curse fell has roamed up and down the wide world,
for ages and ages, seeking rest and never finding it--courting death but
always in vain--longing to stop, in city, in wilderness, in desert
solitudes, yet hearing always that relentless warning to march--march on!
They say--do these hoary traditions--that when Titus sacked Jerusalem and
slaughtered eleven hundred thousand Jews in her streets and by-ways, the
Wandering Jew was seen always in the thickest of the fight, and that when
battle-axes gleamed in the air, he bowed his head beneath them; when
swords flashed their deadly lightnings, he sprang in their way; he bared
his breast to whizzing javelins, to hissing arrows, to any and to every
weapon that promised death and forgetfulness, and rest. But it was
useless--he walked forth out of the carnage without a wound. And it is
said that five hundred years afterward he followed Mahomet when he
carried destruction to the cities of Arabia, and then turned against him,
hoping in this way to win the death of a traitor. His calculations were
wrong again. No quarter was given to any living creature but one, and
that was the only one of all the host that did not want it. He sought
death five hundred years later, in the wars of the Crusades, and offered
himself to famine and pestilence at Ascalon. He escaped again--he could
not die. These repeated annoyances could have at last but one effect--
they shook his confidence. Since then the Wandering Jew has carried on a
kind of desultory toying with the most promising of the aids and
implements of destruction, but with small hope, as a general thing. He
has speculated some in cholera and railroads, and has taken almost a
lively interest in infernal machines and patent medicines. He is old,
now, and grave, as becomes an age like his; he indulges in no light
amusements save that he goes sometimes to executions, and is fond of

There is one thing he can not avoid; go where he will about the world, he
must never fail to report in Jerusalem every fiftieth year. Only a year
or two ago he was here for the thirty-seventh time since Jesus was
crucified on Calvary. They say that many old people, who are here now,
saw him then, and had seen him before. He looks always the same--old,
and withered, and hollow-eyed, and listless, save that there is about him
something which seems to suggest that he is looking for some one,
expecting some one--the friends of his youth, perhaps. But the most of
them are dead, now. He always pokes about the old streets looking
lonesome, making his mark on a wall here and there, and eyeing the oldest
buildings with a sort of friendly half interest; and he sheds a few tears
at the threshold of his ancient dwelling, and bitter, bitter tears they
are. Then he collects his rent and leaves again. He has been seen
standing near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on many a starlight night,
for he has cherished an idea for many centuries that if he could only
enter there, he could rest. But when he approaches, the doors slam to
with a crash, the earth trembles, and all the lights in Jerusalem burn a
ghastly blue! He does this every fifty years, just the same. It is
hopeless, but then it is hard to break habits one has been eighteen
hundred years accustomed to. The old tourist is far away on his
wanderings, now. How he must smile to see a pack of blockheads like us,
galloping about the world, and looking wise, and imagining we are finding
out a good deal about it! He must have a consuming contempt for the
ignorant, complacent asses that go skurrying about the world in these
railroading days and call it traveling.

When the guide pointed out where the Wandering Jew had left his familiar
mark upon a wall, I was filled with astonishment. It read:

                         "S. T.--1860--X."

All I have revealed about the Wandering Jew can be amply proven by
reference to our guide.

The mighty Mosque of Omar, and the paved court around it, occupy a fourth
part of Jerusalem. They are upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon's
Temple stood. This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows,
outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no Christian could
gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition
has been removed, and we entered freely for bucksheesh.

I need not speak of the wonderful beauty and the exquisite grace and
symmetry that have made this Mosque so celebrated--because I did not see
them. One can not see such things at an instant glance--one frequently
only finds out how really beautiful a really beautiful woman is after
considerable acquaintance with her; and the rule applies to Niagara
Falls, to majestic mountains and to mosques--especially to mosques.

The great feature of the Mosque of Omar is the prodigious rock in the
centre of its rotunda. It was upon this rock that Abraham came so near
offering up his son Isaac--this, at least, is authentic--it is very much
more to be relied on than most of the traditions, at any rate. On this
rock, also, the angel stood and threatened Jerusalem, and David persuaded
him to spare the city. Mahomet was well acquainted with this stone.
From it he ascended to heaven. The stone tried to follow him, and if the
angel Gabriel had not happened by the merest good luck to be there to
seize it, it would have done it. Very few people have a grip like
Gabriel--the prints of his monstrous fingers, two inches deep, are to be
seen in that rock to-day.

This rock, large as it is, is suspended in the air. It does not touch
any thing at all. The guide said so. This is very wonderful. In the
place on it where Mahomet stood, he left his foot-prints in the solid
stone. I should judge that he wore about eighteens. But what I was
going to say, when I spoke of the rock being suspended, was, that in the
floor of the cavern under it they showed us a slab which they said
covered a hole which was a thing of extraordinary interest to all
Mohammedans, because that hole leads down to perdition, and every soul
that is transferred from thence to Heaven must pass up through this
orifice. Mahomet stands there and lifts them out by the hair. All
Mohammedans shave their heads, but they are careful to leave a lock of
hair for the Prophet to take hold of. Our guide observed that a good
Mohammedan would consider himself doomed to stay with the damned forever
if he were to lose his scalp-lock and die before it grew again. The most
of them that I have seen ought to stay with the damned, any how, without
reference to how they were barbered.

For several ages no woman has been allowed to enter the cavern where that
important hole is. The reason is that one of the sex was once caught
there blabbing every thing she knew about what was going on above ground,
to the rapscallions in the infernal regions down below. She carried her
gossiping to such an extreme that nothing could be kept private--nothing
could be done or said on earth but every body in perdition knew all about
it before the sun went down. It was about time to suppress this woman's
telegraph, and it was promptly done. Her breath subsided about the same

The inside of the great mosque is very showy with variegated marble walls
and with windows and inscriptions of elaborate mosaic. The Turks have
their sacred relics, like the Catholics. The guide showed us the
veritable armor worn by the great son-in-law and successor of Mahomet,
and also the buckler of Mahomet's uncle. The great iron railing which
surrounds the rock was ornamented in one place with a thousand rags tied
to its open work. These are to remind Mahomet not to forget the
worshipers who placed them there. It is considered the next best thing
to tying threads around his finger by way of reminders.

Just outside the mosque is a miniature temple, which marks the spot where
David and Goliah used to sit and judge the people.--[A pilgrim informs
me that it was not David and Goliah, but David and Saul. I stick to my
own statement--the guide told me, and he ought to know.]

Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously
wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble--precious
remains of Solomon's Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the
soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Moslems have always shown a
disposition to preserve them with the utmost care. At that portion of
the ancient wall of Solomon's Temple which is called the Jew's Place of
Wailing, and where the Hebrews assemble every Friday to kiss the
venerated stones and weep over the fallen greatness of Zion, any one can
see a part of the unquestioned and undisputed Temple of Solomon, the same
consisting of three or four stones lying one upon the other, each of
which is about twice as long as a seven-octave piano, and about as thick
as such a piano is high. But, as I have remarked before, it is only a
year or two ago that the ancient edict prohibiting Christian rubbish like
ourselves to enter the Mosque of Omar and see the costly marbles that
once adorned the inner Temple was annulled. The designs wrought upon
these fragments are all quaint and peculiar, and so the charm of novelty
is added to the deep interest they naturally inspire. One meets with
these venerable scraps at every turn, especially in the neighboring
Mosque el Aksa, into whose inner walls a very large number of them are
carefully built for preservation. These pieces of stone, stained and
dusty with age, dimly hint at a grandeur we have all been taught to
regard as the princeliest ever seen on earth; and they call up pictures
of a pageant that is familiar to all imaginations--camels laden with
spices and treasure--beautiful slaves, presents for Solomon's harem--a
long cavalcade of richly caparisoned beasts and warriors--and Sheba's
Queen in the van of this vision of "Oriental magnificence." These
elegant fragments bear a richer interest than the solemn vastness of the
stones the Jews kiss in the Place of Wailing can ever have for the
heedless sinner.

Down in the hollow ground, underneath the olives and the orange-trees
that flourish in the court of the great Mosque, is a wilderness of
pillars--remains of the ancient Temple; they supported it. There are
ponderous archways down there, also, over which the destroying "plough"
of prophecy passed harmless. It is pleasant to know we are disappointed,
in that we never dreamed we might see portions of the actual Temple of
Solomon, and yet experience no shadow of suspicion that they were a
monkish humbug and a fraud.

We are surfeited with sights. Nothing has any fascination for us, now,
but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We have been there every day, and
have not grown tired of it; but we are weary of every thing else. The
sights are too many. They swarm about you at every step; no single foot
of ground in all Jerusalem or within its neighborhood seems to be without
a stirring and important history of its own. It is a very relief to
steal a walk of a hundred yards without a guide along to talk unceasingly
about every stone you step upon and drag you back ages and ages to the
day when it achieved celebrity.

It seems hardly real when I find myself leaning for a moment on a ruined
wall and looking listlessly down into the historic pool of Bethesda. I
did not think such things could be so crowded together as to diminish
their interest. But in serious truth, we have been drifting about, for
several days, using our eyes and our ears more from a sense of duty than
any higher and worthier reason. And too often we have been glad when it
was time to go home and be distressed no more about illustrious

Our pilgrims compress too much into one day. One can gorge sights to
repletion as well as sweetmeats. Since we breakfasted, this morning, we
have seen enough to have furnished us food for a year's reflection if we
could have seen the various objects in comfort and looked upon them
deliberately. We visited the pool of Hezekiah, where David saw Uriah's
wife coming from the bath and fell in love with her.

We went out of the city by the Jaffa gate, and of course were told many
things about its Tower of Hippicus.

We rode across the Valley of Hinnom, between two of the Pools of Gihon,
and by an aqueduct built by Solomon, which still conveys water to the
city. We ascended the Hill of Evil Counsel, where Judas received his
thirty pieces of silver, and we also lingered a moment under the tree a
venerable tradition says he hanged himself on.

We descended to the canon again, and then the guide began to give name
and history to every bank and boulder we came to: "This was the Field of
Blood; these cuttings in the rocks were shrines and temples of Moloch;
here they sacrificed children; yonder is the Zion Gate; the Tyropean
Valley, the Hill of Ophel; here is the junction of the Valley of
Jehoshaphat--on your right is the Well of Job." We turned up
Jehoshaphat. The recital went on. "This is the Mount of Olives; this is
the Hill of Offense; the nest of huts is the Village of Siloam; here,
yonder, every where, is the King's Garden; under this great tree
Zacharias, the high priest, was murdered; yonder is Mount Moriah and the
Temple wall; the tomb of Absalom; the tomb of St. James; the tomb of
Zacharias; beyond, are the Garden of Gethsemane and the tomb of the
Virgin Mary; here is the Pool of Siloam, and----"

We said we would dismount, and quench our thirst, and rest. We were
burning up with the heat. We were failing under the accumulated fatigue
of days and days of ceaseless marching. All were willing.

The Pool is a deep, walled ditch, through which a clear stream of water
runs, that comes from under Jerusalem somewhere, and passing through the
Fountain of the Virgin, or being supplied from it, reaches this place by
way of a tunnel of heavy masonry. The famous pool looked exactly as it
looked in Solomon's time, no doubt, and the same dusky, Oriental women,
came down in their old Oriental way, and carried off jars of the water on
their heads, just as they did three thousand years ago, and just as they
will do fifty thousand years hence if any of them are still left on

We went away from there and stopped at the Fountain of the Virgin. But
the water was not good, and there was no comfort or peace any where, on
account of the regiment of boys and girls and beggars that persecuted us
all the time for bucksheesh. The guide wanted us to give them some
money, and we did it; but when he went on to say that they were starving
to death we could not but feel that we had done a great sin in throwing
obstacles in the way of such a desirable consummation, and so we tried to
collect it back, but it could not be done.

We entered the Garden of Gethsemane, and we visited the Tomb of the
Virgin, both of which we had seen before. It is not meet that I should
speak of them now. A more fitting time will come.

I can not speak now of the Mount of Olives or its view of Jerusalem, the
Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab; nor of the Damascus Gate or the tree
that was planted by King Godfrey of Jerusalem. One ought to feel
pleasantly when he talks of these things. I can not say any thing about
the stone column that projects over Jehoshaphat from the Temple wall like
a cannon, except that the Moslems believe Mahomet will sit astride of it
when he comes to judge the world. It is a pity he could not judge it
from some roost of his own in Mecca, without trespassing on our holy
ground. Close by is the Golden Gate, in the Temple wall--a gate that was
an elegant piece of sculpture in the time of the Temple, and is even so
yet. From it, in ancient times, the Jewish High Priest turned loose the
scapegoat and let him flee to the wilderness and bear away his twelve-
month load of the sins of the people. If they were to turn one loose
now, he would not get as far as the Garden of Gethsemane, till these
miserable vagabonds here would gobble him up,--[Favorite pilgrim
expression.]--sins and all. They wouldn't care. Mutton-chops and sin is
good enough living for them. The Moslems watch the Golden Gate with a
jealous eye, and an anxious one, for they have an honored tradition that
when it falls, Islamism will fall and with it the Ottoman Empire. It did
not grieve me any to notice that the old gate was getting a little shaky.

We are at home again. We are exhausted. The sun has roasted us, almost.
We have full comfort in one reflection, however. Our experiences in
Europe have taught us that in time this fatigue will be forgotten; the
heat will be forgotten; the thirst, the tiresome volubility of the guide,
the persecutions of the beggars--and then, all that will be left will be
pleasant memories of Jerusalem, memories we shall call up with always
increasing interest as the years go by, memories which some day will
become all beautiful when the last annoyance that incumbers them shall
have faded out of our minds never again to return. School-boy days are
no happier than the days of after life, but we look back upon them
regretfully because we have forgotten our punishments at school, and how
we grieved when our marbles were lost and our kites destroyed--because we
have forgotten all the sorrows and privations of that canonized epoch and
remember only its orchard robberies, its wooden sword pageants and its
fishing holydays. We are satisfied. We can wait. Our reward will come.
To us, Jerusalem and to-day's experiences will be an enchanted memory a
year hence--memory which money could not buy from us.

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