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Chapter VIII.—Place of S. Cyril’s Lectures.
We have seen in a passage already quoted307307 Ch. II. § 2. that at Milan S. Ambrose expounded the Creed to Catechumens in the Baptistery. But whatever may have been the custom in other places, it is certain from numerous passages in Cyril’s Lectures that they were delivered in the great Basilica, or Church of the Resurrection, built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre, and consecrated, as we have seen, with great splendour in the year 335308308 See above, Ch. I. p. 2. Cf. Cat. iv. 10; x. 19; xiii. 4, 22, 39; xiv. 9, 14, 22, &c.. In a passage309309 Cat. xvi. § 4. where Cyril is speaking of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, he says, “as we discourse on Christ and Golgotha here in Golgotha, so it were most fitting that we should also speak concerning the Holy Ghost in the Upper Church; yet since He who descended there jointly partakes of the glory of Him who was crucified here, we here speak concerning Him also who descended there.” It appears from a passage in the Introductory Lecture310310 Procat. § 4. that it was delivered in the Church itself before the whole congregation, after that portion of the daily Service to which Catechumens were usually admitted: “Dost thou behold this venerable constitution of the Church? Dost thou view her order and discipline, the reading of Scripture, the presence of the Ordained, the course of instruction?” The same custom was retained in Jerusalem in the time of John, Cyril’s successor in the Bishopric, who in writing to Jerome says, “The custom with us is that we deliver the doctrine of the Holy Trinity publicly during forty days to those who are to be baptized311311 Hieron. Ep. 61 (al. 38). The passage is quoted more fully below on p. xliv..”
The Mystagogic Lectures were delivered not in the Church, but after the conclusion of the public Service “in the Holy Place of the Resurrection itself312312 Cat. xviii. § 33.,” that is, in the small Chapel which contained the Holy Sepulchre, and to which the name “Anastasis” more properly belonged. Happily we are not required by the purpose of this work to enter into the disputed questions concerning the Holy Places. Whether the cave re-fashioned and adorned by Constantine was the actual sepulchre in which our Lord’s body was laid, and whether the present Churches occupy the same site as the Basilica and Anastasis of Constantine, are matters still under discussion, and awaiting the result of further researches. What more properly concerns us is to collect the chief passages in which Cyril refers to these localities, and to try to give a fair representation of his testimony, comparing it with that of earlier or contemporary writers.
Next to Eusebius, and the Bordeaux Pilgrim who visited Jerusalem in 333, Cyril is the earliest and most important witness as to the site of Constantine’s Churches.
In Cat. xiv. § 5, he says, “It was a garden where He was crucified. For though it has now been most highly adorned with royal gifts, yet formerly it was a garden, and the signs and the remnants of this remain.” From this it is evident that the traces of a garden close to the Church were still visible both to Cyril and his hearers. Twice again in § 11 he mentions the garden, which he had most probably himself seen in its former state, before the ground was cleared at the time of the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre in 326.
On this point it may be well to quote the words of Mr. Walter Besant, Honorary Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund, who, in an article on “The Holy Sepulchre” in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, writes as follows: “While the temple of Venus with its foundations was being cleared away, there might have been, and most probably was present, a Christian lad, native of Jerusalem, eleven years of age, watching the discovery, which did as much as the great luminous cross which appeared in the sky four (? twenty-four) years later to confirm the doubtful and strengthen the faithful, that of the rock containing the sacred tomb. It was Cyril, afterwards Bishop of Jerusalem. One must not forget that he is the third eye-witness who speaks of these things; that though he was a boy at the time of the discovery, he lived in Jerusalem, and must have watched, step by step, the progress of the great Basilica; that he was ordained before the completion and dedication of the buildings, and that many, if not all, of his lectures were delivered in the Church of the Anastasis itself.”
That Cyril’s testimony concerning the Holy Places was in full accordance with the general belief of his contemporaries is clear from the fact that he so frequently points to the traditional sites as bearing witness to the truth of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. He speaks of Golgotha in eight separate passages, sometimes as near to the Church in which he and his hearers are assembled313313 xiii. § 4: οὗτος ὁ Γολγοθᾶς οὗ πλησίον νῦν πάντες πάρεσμεν., and sometimes as standing up above in their sight314314 x. § 19: ὁ Γ. ὁ ἅγιος οὗτος ὁ ὑπερανεστηκὼς μαρτυρεῖ φαινόμενος. Cf. xiii. 19.. In one place he asks, “Seest thou this spot of Golgotha?” and the hearers answer with a shout of approval315315 xiii. § 23: ῾Ορᾶς τοῦ Γολγοθᾶ τὸν τόπον; ᾽Επιβοᾶς ἐπαίνῳ ὡς συντιθέμενος.. In other passages he speaks as if the Church itself was in or rather on Golgotha316316 iv. § 10: ὁ μακάριος οὗτος Γ. ἐν ᾧ νῦν διὰ τὸν ἐν αὐτῷ σταυρωθέντα συγκεκροτήμεθα. Cf. § 14: ὁ ἐν τῷ Γ. τούτῳ σταυρωθείς. xiii. § 22: xvi. 4: ἐν τῷ Γ τούτῳ λέγομεν., the same Preposition (ἐν) being repeated when he mentions “Him who was crucified thereon.”
In explanation of these different modes of speaking, the Benedictine Editor comments thus317317 Cat. xiii. § 4, note 1.: “The Church of the Resurrection was built on part of the hill Golgotha (intra montem G.): but the actual rock on which our Lord was crucified was not within the limits of the Church, yet not far off, namely about “a stone’s throw,” as the author of the Jerusalem Itinerary says. For the Church had been built on the site of the Sepulchre. Some think that the place of Crucifixion was included in the vast area which was enclosed with colonnades between the Sepulchre and the Basilica,…that Golgotha was midway between the Basilica of the Crucifixion, and the Anastasis or Sepulchre. But the area in question Constantine paved with stones, and it must therefore have been flat, as we learn from Eusebius318318 Vit. Const. iii. c. 35.; Golgotha, on the contrary, stood up high319319 Cat. x. § 19; xiii. § 39., and moreover shewed a cleft made there at Christ’s death320320 xiii. § 39., which would either have been a hindrance to the paving or covered up by it. In addition to this, from the doors of the Basilica there seems to have been a view of the Sacred Tomb321321 Eus. Vit. Const. iii. c. 36.. This would have been obstructed if Golgotha had been between them.”
The cleft in the rock of Golgotha is mentioned in a fragment of the defence made before Maximinus in 311 or 312 by Lucian the Martyr of Antioch322322 The fragment is added by Rufinus to his Latin translation of Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. ix. 6, and is also given in Routh, Rell. Sacr. iv. p. 6.: If yet you believe not, I will also offer you the testimony of the very spot on which the thing was done. The place itself in Jerusalem vouches for these facts, and the rock of Golgotha broken asunder under the weight of the Cross: that cave also, which when the gates of hell were burst, gave back the Body in newness of life.” On this passage Dr. Routh remarks that Maundrell, Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, at Easter, 1697, “shews that the rock had been rent not by any instrument, but by the force of an earthquake. Also it is related by Eusebius in his Theophania, a book now recovered, that there was one cave only in this cleft of the rock.”
According to Eusebius in the passages of the Life of Constantine already referred to, the Emperor first beautified the monument or sepulchre with rare columns, then paved with finely polished stone a large area open to the sky, and enclosed on three sides with long colonnades, and lastly erected the Church itself “at the side opposite to the cave, which was the Eastern side.”
The following is the statement of the Bordeaux Pilgrim: “From thence (the Palace of David) as you go out of the wall of Sion walking towards the gate of Neapolis, on the right side below in the valley are walls where the house or Prætorium of Pontius Pilate was: here our Lord was tried before His Passion. On the left hand is the little hill (monticulus) of Golgotha, where the Lord was crucified. About a stone’s throw from thence is a vault (crypta) wherein His body was laid, and rose again on the third day. There by command of the Emperor Constantine has now been built a Basilica, that is to say, a Church of wondrous beauty, having at the side reservoirs (exceptoria) from which water is raised, and a bath behind in which infants are washed (baptized).” Neapolis was the name given by Vespasian to the ancient city of Shechem, now Nâbulus: the “porta Neapolitana” therefore was in the North wall of Sion.
In reference to the passage quoted above, Mr. Aubrey Stewart says: “The narrative is clear and connected, and it is hardly possible, for any one who knows the ground, to read it without feeling that the Pilgrim from Bordeaux actually saw Constantine’s buildings standing on the site now occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre323323 The Bordeaux Pilgrim, Introd. p. ix..”
From these earlier testimonies, compared with the several passages already quoted from Cyril, we may safely draw the following inferences, (1) The Anastasis properly so called, or Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in which the five Mystagogic Lectures were delivered, was built by Constantine over the cave which, according to the evidence then existing, was fully believed to be the Burial-place of our Lord. (2) The Great Basilica, called also the Church of the Holy Cross, in which the Catechetical Lectures were delivered, was erected on the East of the Anastasis, and separated from it by a large open area. (3) The hill of Golgotha (on which at a later period there was built a third Church, called the Church of Golgotha, of Holy Calvary, or of Cranium) stood about a stone’s throw on the North side of Constantine’s two Churches, and about equidistant from them.
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