Renewing My Faith at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

churches, Israel, The Middle East

I arrived in the Holy City of Jerusalem with my faith already weakened. Years of disappointment and heartbreaks have admittedly affected my belief and relationship with God, making me question whether there is really a supreme being who guides and controls our fate.

With my faith already nearly non-existent, I have been used to relying solely on myself, asserting that I control my destiny and I can accomplish anything if I just put effort into it.

But when my mom suffered a stroke earlier in the year, I realized that I cannot control everything. It really pains me to see my mom try to standup and act normally even with her weakened physique. It made me cry when she failed to remember moments in her life, and when she’s having difficulties with her eyesight, a result of some damage in her occipital lobe.

With my trusted map, I made my way to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the most important religious site for most Christians since the 4th century.

Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Here in this complex lies Golgotha, believed to be the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and burial. The emperor Constantine ordered for the construction of the church in 326 AD from what was a pagan site dedicated to Venus. The tomb of Jesus Christ was supposedly found here during the construction. Constantine’s mother St. Helena, also found fragments of the True Cross here.

The original church was burned by the Persians in 614 AD and much of what was left was destroyed even further by the Muslims in 1009. The Crusaders implemented a reconstruction of the church complex and it was completed in 1149. Much of what can be seen from the church’s facade is from the crusader’s period.

From outside, architecture influences from the Byzantine, Crusader and Ottoman period remain apparent. As of now, the church remains a major holy site for the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholics.

Joining a sea of pilgrims from all over the world, I made my way inside the church.

From the main door, the first thing you will see is the tablet where Jesus died. Pilgrims wipe hankies, clothes, rosaries and bottles of holy water against the tablet hoping that these items will be imbued with Christ’s holiness.

At first, I didn’t want to follow these pilgrims but as I stand in the background, I started to talk directly to God. I thanked Him for all the blessings He has given me. I poured out what my heart really felt at that time. And after a few minutes of honest conversation with Him, I realize that despite years of not talking to Him, I can still feel His guidance, and He has remained a good friend to me.

Without hesitation now, I knelt in front of the tablet and immediately felt the importance of the moment and I prayed. I prayed for the immediate recovery of my mom. I prayed that she stay by our side for a long time.

I rubbed the rosaries I bought previously, against the tablet hoping that friends and relatives who will get it will be blessed as well.

After praying, I toured inside the basilica and could not help but admire the grandiosity of the church’s architecture.

I specially like the rotunda directly above the Aedicule, where Jesus’ tomb is housed.

The Aedicule has two parts, the Angel’s stone where a fragment of the stone that covered the tomb is located. The other side if the actual tomb.

I spent about 30 minutes inside the church and within that time, I can say that I was able to repair my relationship with Him. I may not have been the ideal follower all these years, but it is never too late to renew your faith and believe in Him.

After all, He forgives us for our sins.

The tablet where Jesus was laid

The Aedicule
The Aedicule

Me Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Facade of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
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Must-See Montmartre in Paris, France

churches, Europe, France

Paris is without a doubt, one of the most visually striking cities in the world. Any visitor who reaches its shore attests to its sheer beauty and splendor. No surprise, it is the most visited city in the whole world.

The Eiffel and the Louvre are certified crowd favorites and they are definite must-sees. You can’t leave the city without paying a visit to the grand Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.

But if there is one district in the French capital that you should visit to feel the collective rhythm and heartbeat of the city and its people, it is definitely Montmartre.

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A View of Montmarte

Located in the northern region of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre is a large hill, largely knowned for the white domes of the Basilica de Sacre Couer. The name Montmartre however, refers to the greater community that surrounds the church.

Sure, Montmarte has lost some of its luster and fame over the past decades. It has also lost its reputation as the preferred haunt of aspiring artists, since the district has become too noisy, and too crowded, no thanks to the millions of tourists who climb this hill.

In many ways, however, Montmartre has retained its schizoprenic identity that captivated some of the most renowned artists in the world like Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh and Claude Monet among others.

On the surface, Montmarte is known for the Romanesque revival styled Sacre Couer, built in the late 19th century as a way to appease the public following France’s defeat to the Prussian army. It was completed in 1912 and has since become the single most recognizable structure in Montmarte.

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Funicular Going Up The Sacre Couer

The best way to reach the Sacre Couer is through the many steps up the hill, but visitors who have weaker knees and stamina can always take the funicular up the church complex. But honestly, where is the the fun in that?

A breathtaking view of Montmarte awaits you when you finally reach the foot of the basilica. If you want an ever higher vista, you can go up the dome, for 5 euros, and see the city from one of the city’s highest points.

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Montmartre is also famous as the humble address of aspiring artists who flock to Paris to find their muse and own artistic identity. But as I’ve said earlier, the number of artists who stay permanently declines each passing year as the district continues to shed its artsy image, and embraces commercial establishments to welcome more tourists.

If you dig deeper, however, you will realize that Montmarte is so much more.

Boulevard de Clichy is the area situated at the foot of the Montmarte hill. Here, you will find a smorgasbord of bars, souvenir shops, kebab shops, sex shops and peep shows that gives the district a more playful, and accessible ambiance.

moulin rouge

Photo by Wikipedia.org

The famed Moulin Rouge, established at the fin de siecle 1900s, and is considered by many as the birthplace of the can-can dance style of performance, is one of the most recognizable and visited structures in Boulevard de Clichy with its familiar windmill design. Up until now, moulin rouge continues to provide can can revues, and it also offers dancing classes for tourists.

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Anvers Metro station

Montmartre can be reached by foot from the Blanche and Anvers metro stations.

If you choose to pass by Anvers, you will see the seedier section of Montmartre with the sex shops and neon lights. Choose to walk via Blanche and you will experience the more sanitized section with the quiet cobbled streets.

A word of caution. While Montmarte is indeed a tourist friendly district, there are pockets that are not friendly and not very safe, especially at night, such as the Barbes Rochechouart. I was told that the ethnic immigrants of Paris frequent this area.

Rue de Steinkerque is another interesting strip in Montmarte. her eyou can get great bargains for shirts sporting Paris signs, along with keychains, ref magnets, and other Parisian memorabilia. You can also get French brands such as Esprit, Naf Naf etc here at way lower prices. This is indeed a true heaven for bargain hunters.

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Montmartre is definitely not the prettiest part of Paris but it gets my vote as the most complex and interesting.

No matter if you are after spiritual enlightenment or more earthly pursuits, there is something for you in Montmartre.

Montmartre has been called many things: a pigstyle, a hell hole, a stunning hill, depending on the preference and orientation of the person who pays a visit.

On the other hand, a person who’s more open minded and accepting of things outside of the ordinary, like me, will find it a fun, quirky but charming place.

One thing though is for sure, Montmarte is never boring and this fact alone, is enough reason to consider an afternoon, or a day in its warm embrace.