British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 7.900 cm
Width: 5.900 cm
From the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, 1753
M&ME Sloane 153
Prehistory and Europe
Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Bethlehem, modern Palestinian Authority, late 17th century AD
The city of Jerusalem is unique in being sacred to three religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by the Roman emperor Constantine I 'the Great' (reigned 307-37) in 325: it contains the site of the Crucifixion (Golgotha), the Tomb of Christ (the Holy Sepulchre), and the grotto where St Helena discovered the Cross (known as St Helena's Crypt). The Anastis (Resurrection) Rotunda encloses the tomb. The building was magnificently decorated; marble walls contrasted sharply with the coffered ceiling painted in gold.
Friction between religious communities however, increased steadily, resulting in the destruction of the Church in 1009. Since then it has undergone several building and restoration programmes, notably by the Crusaders in 1099.
After the discovery and excavations of the holy Christian sites, Jerusalem immediately became the focus of pilgrimage, with numerous churches, monasteries and accompanying hospices to shelter the thousands of pilgrims. The opportunities for tourism and commercial ventures were immense. This model is an elaborate example of a souvenir made to satisfy the still vital pilgrimage market of the seventeenth century. It is made of olive wood inlaid with ebony, ivory and engraved mother-of-pearl. This type of costly, exotic souvenir was collected by princes and aristocrats throughout Europe; many still survive today. The model comes apart to reveal all the pilgrim sites.
F. Peters, Jerusalem: the Holy City in th (Princeton University Press, 1985)
, Dalla terra alle genti: la dif, exh. cat. (Palazzo dell' Arengo, Rimini, 1996)
M. Gilbert, Jerusalem: rebirth of a city (Jerusalem, 1985)
C. Coüasnon, The Church of the Holy Sepulch (London, Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1974)