History

FULL TEXT - First Non-Muslims to Visit Machpela

The full chapter from Dean Stanley's 1862 visit to the well-guarded Tomb of Machpela in a fascinating read.

8.7.18, 13:21
Arthur Stanley was Dean of Westminster Abbey in London, England from 1864 to 1881. A prolific writer, he authored many works on history and made several trips to the land of Israel. He accompanied the Prince of Wales to the Holy land and wrote of the account in Sermons Preached Before his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, his Tour in the East the Spring of 1862, with Notes of Some or the Localities Visited. The book is commonly referred to by it's shorter title, Sermons in the East. he also wrote Sinai and Palestine in Connection with their History. and History of the Jewish Church, in addition to other works of Christian history.
 
Dean Stanley became one of the first non-Muslims to enter the Cave of Machpela in 600 years. The accomplishment was only due to a special order from the Sultan of Turkey who gave him an armed guard.

Of note is how similar his descriptions of the Tomb of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs sounds like to modern day. It is also interesting to hear about the attitudes of the Muslims who controlled the holy site. Dean Stanley also visited other historical sites in Hebron such as the Tomb of Jesse, Mamre, the Oak of Abraham, and other locations still in existence. 
 
The following is the full text of the chapter entitled The Mosque of Hebron, starting on page 141.
 
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I. The MOSQUE OF HEBRON 
 
There were formerly four sanctuaries in Palestine, which Mussulman jealousy carefully guarded from the approach of Christians. These were the Mosque of Omar and the Mosque of David at Jerusalem, the Great Mosque at Damascus, and the Mosque of Hebron, Of these, however, the first and third had within the last few years become accessible, and to these every facility of access was given to the Prince of Wales on the present occasion. The second was of too dubious a character (as will be presently noticed) to justify any strong demand for inspection. But the fourth, the Mosque of Hebron, — in other words the Sanctuary, first Jewish, then Christian, now Mussulman, which is supposed to cover the Cave of Machpelah, — is, of all the Holy Places in Palestine, the one which has excited in modem times the keenest curiosity, and which at the same time rests on the best historical evidence. When on the eve of my first visit to Palestine in 1852, I saw the great German geographer, Ritter, this was the point to which he most earnestly invited my attention. When in the course of that journey we reached Hebron, it was with reluctance that we abandoned, as a total impossibility, the hope of penetrating within that inaccessible sanctuary. It is through the effort made by the Prince of Wales in his journey of 1862, that this wish has, so far as circumstances could admit, been at last gratified, and the success which crowned this effort gave to his Eastern pilgrimage a peculiar value such as has been attached to the visit of no other European Prince to the Holy Land. 
 
It will be well first to indicate the extraordinary interest which attaches to the spot. The Cave of Machpelah is described in the Book of Genesis with a particularity almost resembling that of a legal deed. 
 
THE CAVE OF MACHPELAH
 
The name of ' Machpelah,' or rather ' the Machpelah,' appears to have belonged to  the whole district or property, though it is applied sometimes to the cave, and sometimes to the field. The meaning of the word is quite uncertain, though that of 'double,' which is adopted in all the ancient versions (almost always as if applied to the cave) is the most probable. In this 'Machpelah' was a field, 'a cultivated field,' which belonged not to one of the Amorite chiefs — Aner, Eshcol, or Mamre, — but to a Hittite, Ephron the son of Zohar. The field was planted, as most of those around the vale of Hebron, with trees ; olives, terebinths, or ilexes. At one 'end,' probably the upper end, was a cave. The whole place was in the face of 'Mamre,' that is, as it would seem, opposite the oaks or terebinths of Mamre, the Amorite, where Abraham had pitched his tent In this case, it would be immediately within view of his encampment ; and the open mouth of the cave may be supposed to have attracted his attention long before he made the proposal which ended in his purchase of this, his first and only property in the Holy Land. 'There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there,' according to the dying speech of the last of the Patriarchs, Jacob buried Leah; and there he himself was buried 'in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought for a possession of a burial-place from Ephron the Hittite before Mamre.' 

This is the last Biblical notice of the Cave of Machpelah. After the close of the Book of Genesis, no mention is made of it in the Scriptures. 
 
Even in the New Testament, in the speech of Stephen, by a singular variation, the tomb at Shechem is substituted for it. It is not even mentioned in the account of Caleb's conquest of Hebron, nor of David's reign there. The only possible allusion is the statement in Absalom's life, that he had vowed a pilgrimage to Hebron. 

But the formal and constant reference to it in the Book of Genesis is a sufficient guarantee not only for a spot of that name having existed from early times, but also for its having been known at the time of the composition of the Book, and of its introduction into the Jewish Canon. That cannot be earlier, on any hypothesis, than the time of Moses, nor later than the times of the Monarchy. 
 
We are not left, however, entirely in the dark. Josephus, in his ' Antiquities,' tells us that there were ' monuments built there by Abraham and his descendants;' closure and in his 'Jewish War,' that 'the monuments of Abraham and his sons' (apparently alluding to those already mentioned in the Antiquities) 'were still shown at Hebron, of beautiful marble, and admirably worked.' These monuments can hardly be other than what the 'Bourdeaux Pilgrim,' in A.D. 333, describes as 'a quadrangle of stones of astonishing beauty;' and these again are clearly those which exist at the present day — the massive enclosure of the Mosque. The tradition, thus carried up unquestionably to the age of Josephus, is in fact carried by the same argument much higher. For the walls, as they now stand, and as Josephus speaks of them, must have been built before his time. The terms which he uses imply this ; and he omits to mention them amongst the works of Herod the Great, the only potentate who could or would have built them in his time, and amongst whose buildings they must have occupied, if at all, a distinguished place. 
 
But, if not erected by Herod, there is then no period at which we can stop short of the Monarchy. So elaborate and costly a structure is inconceivable in the disturbed and impoverished state of the nation after the return. It is to the kings, at least, that the walls must be referred, and, if so, to none so likely as one of the sovereigns to whom they are ascribed by Jewish and Mussulman tradition, — David or Solomon. Beyond this we can hardly expect to find a continuous proof. But by this time, we have almost joined the earlier tradition implied in the description of the Book of Genesis, with its detailed local description, into the Jewish Sacred Books. 
 
With this early origin of the present enclosure its appearance fully agrees. With the long continuity of the tradition agrees also the general character of Hebron and its vicinity. There is no spot in Palestine, except, perhaps, Mount Grerizim, where the genius loci has been so slightly disturbed in the lapse of centuries. There is already a savour of antiquity in the earliest mention of Hebron, 'built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.' In it the names of the Amorite inhabitants were preserved long after they had perished elsewhere ; and from the time that the memory of Abraham first begun to be cherished there it seems never to have ceased. 
 
'The Terebinth, as old as the Creation,' was shown in the time of Josephus. 
 
The Terebinth gave to the spot where it stood the name which lingers there down to the present day, centuries after the tree itself has disappeared. The fair held beneath it, the worship offered, show that the Patriarch was regarded almost as a Divinity. The 'oak of Abraham,' now called the oak (Sindiom) of Sibteh,' which stands in the valley of Eshcol, about a mile westward of Hebron, though not able to lay claim to the same antiquity as the long vanished Terebinth, yet seems to have divided the traditional honours with it. Josephus, who, in one of his works, speaks of the Terebinth, in another speaks of the oak, 'the Ogygian,' antediluvian oak, and this is the view taken by the Septuagint. It is still in a green old age. Since I saw it in 1853, the glory of its spreading branches has been somewhat diminished ; one large bough had fallen in 1856 to the terror, almost the awe, of the surrounding peasants ; but the trunk and the main limbs of the tree remain vigorous and knotted and vast as before. Not seldom in our own churchyards the aged yew and the aged church stand side by side ; and, as we glance from one to the other, we hardly know which of the two monuments of the past is the most venerable, the most affecting. Even so it is with the oak of Abraham and the sanctuary which we are now more especially considering. 
 
With the sanctuary no less than with the oak, his name is indissolubly connected. Very early in the middle ages, that sepulchral quadrangle assumed the title of the ' Castle of Abraham.' But from thence the name spread to the whole place. The Mussulman name of Elkhalil, 'The Friend' (of God), has as completely superseded in the native population the Israelite name of 'Hebron,' as the name of 'Hebron' had already superseded the Canaanite name of 'Kirjath-arba.' The town itself, which in ancient times must have been at some distance (as is implied in the original account of the purchase of the burial-place) from the sepulchre, has descended from the higher ground on which it was formerly situated, and clustered round the tomb which had become the chief centre of attraction. A similar instance may be noted in the name of El-Lazarieh, applied to Bethany, from the reputed tomb of Lazarus, round which the modern village has gathered. In our own country a parallel may be observed at St. Alban's. The town of Verulam has crossed the river from the northern bank on which it formerly stood, and has climbed the southern hill in order to enclose the grave of S. Alban, whose name, in like manner, has entirely superseded that of the original Verulam. 
 
For the sake of this sacred association, the town has become one of the Four Holy Places of Islam and of Judaism — the other three in the sacred group being, in the case of Islam, Mecca, Medinah, and Jerusalem; in the case of Judaism, Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias. The Mosque is said to have been founded and adorned in the successive reigns of Sultan Kelaoun, and of his son Naser-Mohammed, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Its property consists of some of the best land in the plains of Sharon and Philistia. 
 
But of all the proofs of the sanctity of the place the most remarkable is the impenetrable mystery in which the sanctuary has been involved, being in fact a living witness of the unbroken local veneration with which the three religions of Jew, Christian, and Mussulman have honoured the great Patriarch. The stones of the enclosure have, as has been said, been noticed from the time of Josephus downwards. The long roof of the Mosque, the upper part of its windows, the two minarets at the south- west and north-east comers rising above the earlier and later walls of the enclosure, have been long familiar to travellers. 
 
But what lay within had, till within the present year, been a matter if not of total ignorance, yet of uncertainty more provoking than ignorance itself. There were confused accounts of an early Christian Church, of a subsequent mosque, of the cave and its situation, which transpired through widely contradictory statements of occasional Jewish and Christian pilgrims, Antoninus, Arculf, and Saewulf, Benjamin of Tudela, and Maundeville. 
 
For the six hundred years since the Mussulman occupation, in A.D. 1187, no European, except in disguise, was known to have set foot within the sacred precincts. Three accounts alone of such visits have been given in modern times ; one, extremely brief and confused, by Giovanni Finati, an Italian servant of Mr. Bankes, who entered as a Mussulman ; a second, by an English clergyman, Mr. Monro, who, however, does not profess to speak from his own testimony ; a third, by far the most distinct, by the Spanish renegade Badia, or ' Ali Bey.' While the other sacred places in Palestine, — the Mosque at Jerusalem, within the last ten years, the Mosque of Damascus, within the last two years — have been thrown open, at least to distinguished travellers, the Mosque of Hebron still remained, even to royal personages, hermetically sealed. 
 
To break through this mystery, to clear up this uncertainty, even irrespectively of the extraordinary interest attaching to the spot, was felt by those most concerned, to be an object not unworthy of the first visit of a Prince of Wales to the Holy Land. 
 
THE VISIT OF THE PRINCE OF WALES
 
From the moment that the expedition was definitively arranged in January 1862, it was determined by His Royal Highness and his advisers, that the attempt of the should be made, if it were found compatible with prudence, and with the respect due to the religious feelings of the native population. On arriving at Jerusalem, an enquiry immediately arose, as to the possibility of accomplishing this long-cherished design. Mr. Finn, then the English Consul, had already prepared the way, by requesting a Firman from the Porte for this purpose. The Government at Constantinople, aware of the susceptible fanaticism of the population of Hebron, sent, instead of a direct order, a Vizierial letter of recommendation to the Governor of Jerusalem, leaving in fact the whole matter to his discretion. The Governor, Suraya Pasha,— partly from the natural difficulties of the proposed attempt, partly, it may be, from his own personal feeling on the subject, — held out long and strenuously against taking upon himself the responsibility of a step which had hitherto no precedent. Even as lately as the preceding year, he had resisted the earnest entreaty of a distinguished French scholar and antiquary, though armed with the recommendations of his own government and of Fuad Pasha, then Turkish Commissioner in Syria. The negotiation devolved on General Bruce, the Governor of the Prince of Wales, assisted by the interpreter of the party, Mr. Noel Moore, son of the Consul-General of Beyrut, and himself now the Consul at Jerusalem. It may truly be said, — as it was in enumerating the qualifications of the lamented General after his death, — that the tact and firmness which he showed on this occasion were worthy of the first ranks of diplomacy. Many grave political difficulties might, in other and grander spheres, have been unlocked by the dexterity with which he gained admittance to the Mosque of Hebron. 
 
Suraya Pasha offered every other civility or honour that could be paid. The General took his position on the ground, that since the opening of the other Holy Places, this was the one honour left for the Turkish Government to award on the rare occasion of a visit of the Prince of Wales. He urged, too, the feeling with which the request was made : that we, as well as they, had a common interest in the Patriarchs common to both Religions ; and that nothing was claimed beyond what would be accorded to Mussulmans themselves. At last the Pasha appeared to give way. But a new alarm arose out of a visit of the Royal party to the shrine commonly called the Tomb of David, in Jerusalem. 
 
THE TOMB OF DAVID

The 'Tomb of David,' could it only be ascertained, would be The Tomb of considerable importance, not only on account of its intrinsic interest, but because it would determine the disputed question of the site of Mount Zion and the City of David, in which the sepulchre was undoubtedly situated. And, if discovered at all, it would be capable of almost certain identification, because as containing the graves of by far the larger part of the Kings of Juarnaculum or Upper Chamber of the Last Supper, of the Pentecostal assembly, of the death of the Virgin, and of the burial of Stephen. This spot is by the Mussulmans — and apparently by them alone — believed to be the tomb of David and his son Solomon. Their belief rests on too recent and too questionable a foundation, to be of any substantial value ; and for this reason no special * stress was laid on the request that it should be made accessible to the Prince of Wales. But on our visit to the Chapel of the ' Coenaculum,' which is shown to all travellers, there seemed to be no decided disinclination to permitting some approach to the chamber beneath. This accordingly we saw. It is evidently the crypt of the church above. At the east end of this chamber is a recess fenced off by an iron gate, through^which is visible a cenotaph, such as is always found over the graves of Mussulman saints. It is a large coffin-like structure, covered with a green cloth, on which 'hangs the inscription, 'David, whom God has made vicar, rule mankind in truth.' 
 
Immediately in front of the shrine is a well. On the south side of the recess is a small window, and a wooden door. Over this door is an Arabic inscription, 'This is the gate of the garden of Paradise,' — which is the usual designation of a saint's tomb — and the door, according to the keepers of the Mosque, leads to the cavern itself, but had never been opened as far back as the memory of themselves or their forefathers extended. It was to this door, which the Prince and a few members of his suite were allowed to approach closely, that our attention was chiefly attracted. But the keepers were resolute ; the people in the neighbourhood became excited ; the excitement was increased by the number of Europeans who had been drawn to the spot by the natural curiosity of the occasion ; and finally, the Pasha himself arrived with a troop of soldiers, inspired by a feeling, no doubt, similar to that which brought down Claudius Lysias from the fortress of Antonia to the court of the Temple, in the scene so forcibly described in the ^Acts of the Apostles.' A long argument ensued, in which the whole question was discussed, together with the further and more important problem of the admission to the Mosque of Hebron. His arguments were extremely characteristic. * You did not order the pavement of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre to be taken up ; yet if it be really a Jewish tomb, the Holy Sepulchre must be underneath.' 
 
When the tomb of the Prophet at Medinah needed repair, a rich recompense was offered to anyone who would go in for the purpose. A man was found bold enough to make the attempt; he went in and repaired it ; and on coming out was put to death. That was his recompense. This is our sentiment on the subject of opening the tombs of saints. Even if this or the tomb of Hebron were open, I should not go in ; I would not approach anyone so holy as Abraham or David. I will, if you wish, consult the Moolah or the Kadi ; but I know beforehand what his answer will be.' 
 
The difficulties raised in this attempt naturally complicated the question, in which the Prince was chiefly interested, of the access to Hebron ; and in the course of that evening the Pasha finally declared that the .responsibility was too grave, and that he could not undertake to guarantee the Prince's safety from the anger, either of the population of Hebron, or of the Patriarchs themselves, who were always on the watch within their tombs to avenge any injury or affront to their sanctity. 
 
It was an anxious moment. On the one hand, there was the doubt, now seriously raised, as to the personal safety of the attempt, which, though it hardly entered into the Prince's own calculation, was a paramount question for those who were charged with the responsibility of the step. On the other hand, the point having been once raised, could not be lightly laid aside ; the more so, as it .was strongly felt that to allow of a refusal in the case of the Prince of Wales, would establish an impregnable precedent against future relaxations, and close the doors of the Mosque more firmly than ever against all enquirers. General Bruce adopted a course which ultimately proved successful. He announced to the Pasha the extreme displeasure of the Prince at the refusal, and declared his intention of leaving Jerusalem instantly for the Dead Sea ; adding that, if the sanctuary at Hebron could not be entered, the Prince would decline to visit Hebron altogether. We started immediately on a three days' expedition, the usual excursion to Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and Jericho. It will readily be supposed that in this route there is nothing to relate that is not familiar to every Eastern traveller or reader of Eastern travels. Only I may remark the extraordinary effect produced by the beauty of the people of Bethlehem — of the children especially — often observed before, but not often seen to such advantage as then, when through every broken wall or ruined window of that rugged and narrow street, from every house-top that overhung our long cavalcade, every face in the village was looking down upon us, and every face (it is hardly too much to say) was beautiful. And another impression not less pleasing, even if accidental, was the peace and good will' which seemed to prevail amongst the different religious communities, Greek, Latin, Armenian, which cluster round the scene of the Nativity, contrasted with the jealousies and rivalries, Greek, Latin, Armenian, Protestant, which rage round the scene of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and which the visit of any distinguished personage only brings more clearly to light. 
 
Out of the wide and wild sweep of hills round Bethlehem, which formed the cradle of the Psalms of David, we passed into the still wider and wilder sweep of the hills, over which he wandered in the years of his early manhood. These high upland regions are indeed ' the wilderness of Judah,' and, as we rode over their huge indulations, they were silent and desolate as the desert itself- — till suddenly every barren ridge appeared bristling with groups of armed Arabs. For a few moments there was an expectation of attack. It is this incident which in foreign journals has been transformed into the story of the capture and release of the Prince of Wales. It was, in fact, the alarm which the streaming pennons and spears of our Turkish escort had struck into the Bedouin tribes, who, being in a state of chronic warfare with the government at Jerusalem, imagined that a hostile assault was intended. A few words from one of our party who rode forward to explain, dissolved the illusion, and the hills were in a moment as silent and as lifeless as before. 
 
We descended upon the magnificent gorge of the convent of Mar Saba, and in a small platform in the gorge found our own tents pitched. But close beside was a smaller encampment, which contained Suraya Pasha ; — nominally, to secure the Prince's safe passage through the disturbed Arab tribes, but really to re-open the negotiations about Hebron. He had followed us by the more direct route from Jerusalem, and on that same evening sent a formal message offering to make the attempt, if the numbers were limited to the Prince and two or three of the  suite, and promising to go himself to Hebron to prepare for the Return to event This proposal was guardedly, but decisively Jerusalem, accepted. The next day we still continued on our march to the Jordan ; and the third day returned from Jericho to Jerusalem, up the well-known ascent of Adummim — the scene of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and caught the view of the city from the memorable point on the road of our Lord's triumphal entry. The whole cavalcade halted at that long ledge of rock, where 'He beheld the city and wept over  it.' Before us lay the view, still splendid, of the Mosque of Omar, the Temple platform, the broken outline of Jerusalem, the deep ravine of the Kedron. Behind us lay Mount Olivet, its stones, its olive- trees, its fig-trees, — even the flock of the black goats and white sheep, which at that moment followed their shepherd over the slope of the hill, — all full of the Divine Teaching, by which every portion of its rugged sides has been consecrated. 
 
Our return was on the Saturday evening. On Sunday the Prince attended Divine Service in the English Church, and the rest of the day was quietly spent in Jerusalem. Early on the morning of Monday the 7th of April, we left our encampment, and moved in a southerly direction. The object of our journey, was mentioned to no one. On our way, we were joined by Dr. Rosen, the Prussian Consul at Jerusalem, well known to travellers in Palestine, from his profound knowledge of sacred geography, and, in this instance, doubly valuable as a companion, from the special attention which he had paid to the topography of  Hebron and its neighbourhood. Before our arrival at Hebron, the Pasha had made every preparation to ensure the safety of the experiment. What he feared was, no doubt, a random shot or stone from some individual fanatic, who might have held his life cheap at the cost of avenging what he thought an outrage on the sanctities of his religion. Against Indian pilgrims, who are well known to hang about these sacred places, we had been especially warned, and one or two such we did in fact meet on our way and on our return. Accordingly, as the protracted file wound through the narrow valley by which the town of Hebron is approached, underneath the walls of those vineyards on the hill sides, which have made the vale of Eshcol immortal, the whole road on either side for more than a mile was lined with soldiers. The native population, which usually on the Prince's approach to a town streamed out to meet him, was invisible, it may be from compulsion, it may be from silent indignation. We at length reached the green sward in front of the town, crowned by the Quarantine and the Governor's residence. There Suraya Pasha received us. It had been arranged, in accordance with the Pasha's limitation of the numbers, that His Royal Highness should be accompanied, besides the General, by the two members of the party who had given most attention to Biblical pursuits, so as to make it evident that the visit was not one of mere curiosity, but had also a distinct scientific purpose. It was, however, finally conceded by the Governor, that the whole of the suite should be included, amounting to seven persons besides the Prince. The servants remained behind. We started on foot, two and two, between two files of soldiers, by the ancient pool of Hebron, up the narrow streets of the modern town, still lined with soldiers. Hardly a face was visible as we passed through ; only here and there a solitary guard, stationed at a vacant window, or on the flat roof of a projecting house, evidently to guarantee the safety of the party from any chance missile. It was, in fact, a complete military occupation of the town. At length we reached the south-eastern comer of the massive wall of enclosure, the point at which enquiring travellers from generation to generation have been checked in their approach to this, the most ancient and the most authentic of all the Holy Places of the Holy Land. ' Here,' said Dr. Rosen, was the furthest limit of my researches.' Up the steep flight of the exterior staircase — gazing close at hand on the polished surface of the wall, amply justifying Josephus's account of the marble-like appearance of the huge stones which compose it — we rapidly mounted. At the head of the staircase, which by its long ascent showed that the platform of the Mosque was on the uppermost slope of the hill, and therefore above the level where, if anywhere, the sacred cave would be found, a sharp turn at once brought us within the precincts, and revealed to us for the first time the wall from the inside. A later wall of Mussulman times has been built on the top of the Jewish enclosure. The enclosure itself, as seen from the inside, rises but a few feet above the platform. 
 
Here we were received with much ceremony by five or six persons, corresponding to the Dean and Canons of a Christian cathedral. They were the representatives of Mosque, the Forty hereditary guardians of the Mosque. 
 
We passed at once through an open court into the Mosque. 
 
With regard to the building itself, two points at once Mosque, became apparent. First, it was clear that it had been originally a Byzantine church. To anyone acquainted with the cathedral of S. Sophia at Constantinople, and with the monastic churches of Mount Athos, this is evident from the double narthex or portico, and from the four pillars of the nave. Secondly, it was clear that it had been converted at a much later period into a mosque. This is indicated by the pointed arches, and by the truncation of the apse. The transformation was said by the guardians of the Mosque to have been made by Sultan Kelaoun. The whole building occupies (to speak roughly) one-third of the platform. The windows are sufficiently high to be visible from without, above the top of the enclosing wall. 
 
I now proceed to describe the Tombs of the Patriarchs, premising always that these tombs, like all those in Mussulman mosques, and indeed like most tombs in Patriarchs. Christian churches, do not profess to be the actual places of sepulture, but are merely monuments or cenotaphs in honour of the dead who lie beneath. Each is enclosed within a separate chapel or shrine, closed with gates or railings similar to those which surround or enclose the private chapels or royal tombs in Westminster Abbey. The two first of these shrines or chapels are contained in the inner portico or narthex, before the entrance into the actual building of the Mosque. In the recess on the right is the shrine of Abraham, in the recess on the left that of Sarah, each guarded by silver gates. 
 
The Shrine of Sarah we were requested not to enter, as being that of Sarah, of a woman. A pall lay over it. The shrine of Abraham, after a momentary hesitation, was thrown open. The guardians groaned aloud. But their chief turned to us with the remark, 'The princes of any other nation should have passed over my dead body sooner than enter. But to the eldest son of the Queen of England we are willing to accord even this privilege.' He stepped in before us, and offered an ejaculatory prayer to the dead Patriarch, 'Friend of God, forgive this intrusion.' We then entered. The chamber is cased in marble. The so-called tomb consists of a coffin-like structure, about six feet high, built up of plastered stone or 
marble, and hung with three carpets, green embroidered with gold. They are said to have been presented by Mohamed II. the conqueror of Constantinople Selim I. the conqueror of Egypt, and the late Sultan Abdul Mejid. Fictitious as the actual structure was, it was impossible not to feel a thrill of unusual emotion at standing on such a spot, — an emotion enhanced by the rare occasion which had opened the gates of that consecrated place, as the guardian of the Mosque kept repeating to us, as we stood round the tomb, * to no one less than the representative of England.
 
Within the area of the church or mosque were shown the tombs of Isaac and Rebekah. They are placed under separate chapels, in the walls of which are windows, and of which the gates are grated not with silver, but iron bars. Their situation, planted as they are in the body of the Mosque, may indicate their Christian origin. In almost all Mussulman sanctuaries, the tombs of distinguished persons are placed, not in the centre of the building, but in the comers. To Rebekah's tomb the same decorous rule of the exclusion of male visitors naturally applied as in the case of Sarah's. But on requesting to see the tomb of Isaac, we were entreated not to enter ; and on asking, with some surprise, why an objection which had been conceded for Abraham should of Isaac, be raised in the case of his far less eminent son, were answered that the difference lay in the characters of the two Patriarchs — Abraham was full of loving-kindness ; he had withstood even the resolution of God against Sodom and Gomorrah ; he was goodness itself, and would overlook any affront. But Isaac was proverbially jealous, and it was exceedingly dangerous to exasperate him. When Ibrahim Pasha [as conqueror of Palestine] had endeavoured to enter, he had been driven out by Isaac, and fell back as if thunderstruck.' 
 
The chapel, in fact, contains nothing of interest; but I mention this story both for the sake of the singular sentiment which it expresses, and also because it well illustrates the peculiar feeling which has tended to preserve the sanctity of the place — an awe, amounting to terror, of the great personages who lay beneath, and who would, it was supposed, be sensitive to any disrespect shown to their graves, and revenge it accordingly. 
 
The shrines of Jacob and Leah were shown in recesses correspending to those of Abraham and Sarah — but in a separate cloister, opposite the entrance of the Mosque. Against Leah's tomb, as seen through the iron gate, two green banners reclined, the origin and meaning of which was unknown. They are placed in the pulpit on Fridays. The gates 
The Shrine ^f Jacob's tomb were opened without difficulty, though of Jacob, '^th a deep groan from the bystanders. There was some good painted glass in one of the windows. The structure was of the same kind as that in the shrine of Abraham, but with carpets of a coarser texture. Else it calls for no special remark. 
 
Thus far the monuments of the Mosque adhere strictly to the Biblical account as given above. This is the more remarkable, because in these particulars the agreement is beyond what might have been expected in a Mussulman sanctuary. The prominence given to Isaac, whilst in entire accordance with the Sacred narrative, is against the tenor of Mussulman tradition, which exalts Ishmael into the first place. And, in like conformity with the Sacred narrative, but unlike what we should have expected, had mere fancy been allowed full play, is the exclusion of the famous Rachel, and the inclusion of the insignificant Leah. 
 
The variation which follows rests, as I am informed by Dr. Rosen, on the general tradition of the country (justified, perhaps, by an ambiguous expression of Josephus) that the body of Joseph, after having been deposited first at Shechem, was subsequently transported to Hebron. But the peculiar situation of this alleged tomb agrees with the exceptional character of the tradition. It is in a domed chamber attached to the enclosure from the outside, and reached, therefore, by an aperture broken through the massive wall itself, and thus visible on the exterior of the southern side of the wall. It is less costly than the others, and it is remarkable that, although the name of his wife (according to the Mussulman version, Zuleika) is inserted in the certificates given to pilgrims who have visited the Mosque, no grave having that appellation is shown. A staff was hung up in a corner of the chamber. There were painted windows as in the shrine of Jacob. According to the story told by the guardian of the Mosque, Joseph was buried in the Nile, and Moses recovered the body, 1005 years afterwards, by marrying an Egyptian wife who knew the secret. 

No other tombs were exhibited inside the Mosque. In a mosque on the northern side of the great Mosque were two shrines, resembling those of Isaac and Eebekah, which were afterwards explained to us as merely ornamental. On a platform immediately outside the Jewish wall on the north side, and seen from the hill rising immediately to the north-east of the Mosque, is the dome of a mosque named Jawaliyeh, Mosque of said to have been built by the Emir Abou Said Sanjar Jawali, from whom, of course, it derives its name, in the place of the tomb of Judas, or Judah, which he caused to be destroyed. 
 
These are the only variations from the catalogue of tombs in the Book of Genesis. In the fourth century, the Bourdeaux Pilgrim saw only the six great patriarchal shrines. But from the seventh century downwards, one or more lesser tombs seem to have been shown. Arculf speaks of the tomb of Adam, which is of meaner workmanship than the rest, and lies not  far off from them at the farthest extremity to the north. If we might take this direction of the compass to be correct, he must mean either 'the tomb of Judah' or one of the two in the northern mosque. This latter conjecture is confirmed by the statement of Maundeville that the tombs of Adam and Eve were shown ; which would thus correspond to these two. The tomb of Joseph is first distinctly mentioned by Saewulf, who says that the bones of Joseph were buried more humbly than the rest, as it' were at the extremity of the castle. Mr. Monro describes further a tomb of Esau, under a small cupola, with eight or ten windows, excluded from lying with the rest of the Patriarchs. Whether by this he meant the tomb of Joseph, or the tomb of Judah, is not clear. A Mussulman tomb of Esau was shown in the suburb of Hebron called Sir.
 
THE CAVE

The tomb of Abner is shown in the town, and the tomb of Jesse on the hill facing Hebron on the south. But these have no connection with the Mosque, or the patriarchal burying-place. 
 
We have now gone through all the shrines, whether of real or fictitious importance, which the Sanctuary includes. It will be seen that up to this point no mention has been made of the subject of the greatest interest, namely, the sacred cave itself, in which one at least of the patriarchal family may possibly still repose intact — the embalmed body of Jacob. It may be well supposed that to this object our enquiries were throughout directed. One indication alone of the cavern beneath was visible. In the interior of the Mosque, at the comer of the shrine of Abraham, was a small circular hole, about eight inches across, of which one foot above the pavement was built of strong masonry, but of which the lower part, as far as we could see and feel, was of the living rock.
 
This cavity appeared to open into a dark space beneath, and that space (which the guardians of the Mosque believed to extend under the whole platform) can hardly be anything else than the ancient cavern of Machpelah. This was the only aperture which the guardians recognized. Once, they said, 2,500 years ago, a servant of a great king had penetrated 
through some other entrance. He descended in full possession of his faculties, and of remarkable corpulence; he returned blind, deaf, withered, and crippled. Since then the entrance was closed, and this aperture alone was left, partly for the sake of allowing the holy air of the cave to escape into the Mosque, and be scented by the faithful; partly for the sake of allowing a lamp to be let down by a chain which we saw suspended at the mouth, to burn upon the sacred grave. We asked whether it could not be lighted now ? ' No,' they said ; the saint likes to have a lamp at nght, but not in the full daylight.' 
 
With that glimpse into the dark void we and the world without must for the present be satisfied. Whether any other entrance is known to the Mussulmans themselves, must be a matter of doubt. The original entrance to the cave, if it is now to be found at all, must probably be on the southern face of the hill, between the Mosque and the gallery containing the shrine of Joseph, and entirely obstructed by the ancient Jewish wall, probably built across it for this very purpose. 
 
It seems to our notions almost incredible that Christians and Mussulmans, each for a period of 600 years, should have held possession of the sanctuary, and not had the curiosity to explore what to us is the one object of interest — the cave. But the fact is undoubted that no account exists of any such attempt. Such a silence can only be explained (but it is probably a sufficient explanation) by the indifference which prevailed, throughout the Miiddle Ages, to any historical spots however interesting, unless they were actually consecrated as places of pilgrimage. The Mount of Olives, the site of the Temple of Solomon, the Rock of the Holy Sepulchre itself, were not thought worthy of even momentary consideration, in comparison with the chapels and stations which were the recognized objects of devotion. Thus at Hebron a visit to the shrines, both for Christians and Mussulmans, procures a certificate. The cave had therefore no further value. In the case of the Mussulmans this indifference is still more general. Suraya Pasha himself, a man of considerable intelligence, professed that he had never thought of visiting the Mosque of Hebron for any other purpose than that of snuffing the sacred air, and he had never, till we arrived at Jerusalem, seen the wonderful convent of Mar Saba, or the Dead Sea, or the Jordan. And to this must be added, if not in his case, in that of Mussulmans generally, the terror which they entertain of the effect of the wrath of the Patriarchs on any one who should intrude into the place where they are supposed still to be in a kind of suspended animation. As far back as the seventeenth century it was firmly believed that if any Mussulman entered the cavern, immediate death would be the consequence.
 
It should be mentioned, however, that two accounts are reported of travellers having obtained a nearer view of the cave than was accomplished in the visit of the Prince of Wales. 
 
The first is contained in the pilgrimage of Benjamin of Tudela, the Jewish traveller of the twelfth century : 
 
— The  Gentiles have erected six sepulchres in this place, which they pretend to be those of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. The pilgrims are told that they are the sepulchres of the fathers, and money is extorted from them. But if any Jew comes, who gives an additional fee to the keeper of the cave, an iron door is opened, which dates from the time of our forefathers who rest in peace, and with a burning candle in his hands, the visitor descends into a first cave, which is empty, traverses a second in the same state, and at last reaches a third, which contains six sepulchres, those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah, one opposite the other. All these sepulchres bear inscriptions, the letters being engraved. Thus, upon that of Abraham we read : — " This is the sepulchre of our father Abraham ; upon " whom be peace," and so on that of Isaac, and upon all the other sepulchres. A lamp burns in the cave and upon the sepulchres continually, both night and day, and you there see tombs filled with the bones of Israelites — for unto this day it is a custom of the house of Israel to bring hither the bones of their saints and of their forefathers, and to leave them there.' 
 
In this account, which, as may be observed, does not profess to describe Benjamin's own experience, there are two circumstances (besides its general improbability) which throw considerable doubt on its accuracy. One is the mention of inscriptions, and of an iron door, which, as is well known, are never found in Jewish sepulchres. The other is the mention of the practice of Jews sending their bones to be buried in a place, which, as is evident from the rest of the narrative, could only be entered with the greatest difficulty. The second account is that of M. Ermete Pierotti, who, having been an engineer in the Sardinian army, acted for some years as architect and engineer to Suraya Pasha, at Jerusalem, and thus obtained, both in that city and at Hebron, access to places otherwise closed to Europeans. 
 
The following account appeared in the Times of April 30, 1862, immediately following on the announcement of the Prince's visit: 
 
— The true entrance to the Patriarchs' tomb is to be seen close to the western wall of the enclosure, and near the north-west comer ; it is guarded by a very thick iron railing, and I was not allowed to go near it. I observed that the Mussulmans themselves did not go very near it. In the court opposite the entrance gate of the Mosque, there is an opening, through which I was allowed to go down for three steps, and I was able to ascertain by sight and touch that the rock exists there, and to conclude it to be about five feet thick. From the short observations I could make during my brief descent, as also from the consideration of the east wall of the Mosque, and the little information I extracted from the Chief Santon, who jealously guards the sanctuary, I consider that a part of the grotto exists under the Mosque, and that the other part is under the court, but at a lower level than that lying under the Mosque. This latter must be separated from the former by a vertical stratum of rock which contains an opening, as I conclude, for two reasons : first, because the east wall being entirely solid and massive, requires a good foundation ; secondly, because the petitions which the Mussulmans present to the Santon to be transmitted to the Patriarchs are thrown, some through one opening, some through the other, according to the Patriarch to whom they are directed ; and the Santon goes down by the way I went, whence I suppose that on that side there is a vestibule, and that the tombs may be found below it. I explained my conjectures to the Santon himself after leaving the Mosque, and he showed himself very much surprised at the time, and told the Pacha afterwards that I knew more about it than the Turks themselves. The fact is that even the Pacha who governs the province has no right to penetrate into the sacred enclosure, where (according to the Mussulman legend) the Patriarchs are living, and only condescend to receive the petitions addressed to them by mortals. 
 
This statement of the entrance of the Santon, or Sheykh of the Mosque, into the cave, agrees with the account which was given to me at Hebron in 1852 ; ^ that the cave consists of two compartments, into one of which a dervish or sheykh is allowed to penetrate on special emergencies.' Against this must be set the repeated assertions of the guardian of the Mosque, and of the Governor of Jerusalem, (which, as has been seen, are substantially confirmed by the Arab historians,) that no Mussulman has ever entered the cave within the memory of man. Of the staircase and gate described by M. Pierotti, there was no appearance on our visit, though we must have walked over the very spot — being, in fact, the pavement in front of the Mosque. Of the separate apertures for throwing down the petitions we also saw nothing. And it would seem from Finati's account, that the one hole down which he threw his petition was that by the tomb of Abraham. 
 
The result of the Prince's visit will have been disappointing to those who expected a more direct solution of the mysteries of Hebron. But it has not been without its indirect benefits. In the first place, by the entrance of the Prince of the of Wales, the first step has been taken for the removal of the bar of exclusion from this most sacred and interesting spot. The relaxation may in future times be slight and gradual, and the advantage gained must be used with every caution ; but it is impossible not to feel that some effect will be produced even on the devotees of Hebron when they feel that the Patriarchs have not suffered any injury or affront, and that even Isaac rests tranquilly in his grave. And Englishmen may fairly rejoice that this advance in the cause of religious tolerance if it may be so called, and of Biblical knowledge was attained in the person of the heir to the English throne, out of regard to the position which he and his country hold in the Eastern world. 
 
In the second place, the visit has enabled us to form a much clearer judgement of the value of the previous accounts to correct their deficiencies and to rectify their confusion. The narrative of Ali Bey in particular, is now substantially corroborated. The existence and the exact situation of the cave underneath the floor of the Mosque, the appearance of the ancient enclosure from within, the precise relation of the different shrines to each other, and the general conformity of the traditions of the Mosque to the accounts of the Bible and of early travellers, are now for the first time clearly ascertained. To discover the entrance of the cave, to examine the actual places of the patriarchal sepulture, and to set (eyes if so be) on the embalmed body of Jacob, the only patriarch the preservation of whose remains is thus described, — must be reserved for the explorers of another generation, for whom this visit will have been the best preparation. 
Meanwhile, it may be worth while to recall the general instruction furnished by the nearer contemplation of this remarkable spot. The narrative itself to which it takes us back stands alone in the Patriarchal history for the precision with which both locality and character are delineated. First, there is the death of Sarah in the city of Kirjath-Arba, 
whilst Abraham is absent, apparently at Mamre. He comes to make the grand display of funeral grief, ' mourning aloud and weeping aloud,' such as would befit so great a death. He is filled with the desire, not Egyptian, not Christian, hardly Greek or Roman, but certainly Jewish, to thrust away the dark shadow that has fallen upon him, to 'bury his dead out of his sight.' Then ensues the conference in the gate — the Oriental place of ^ assembly, where the negotiators and the witnesses of the transaction, as at the present day, are gathered from the many comers and goers through 'the gate of the city.' As in the Gentile traditions of Damascus, and as in the ancient narrative of the pursuit of the five kings, Abraham is saluted by the native inhabitants, not merely as a wandering shepherd, but as a ' Prince ' of God.' The inhabitants are, as we might expect, not the Amorites, but the Hittites, whose name is that recognized by all the surrounding nations. They offer him the most sacred of their sepulchres for the cherished * remains. The Patriarch maintains his determination to remain aloof from the Canaanite population, at the same time that he preserves every form of courtesy and friendliness, in accordance with the magnificent toleration and inborn gentleness which pervade his character. First, as in the attitude of Oriental respect, he stands,' and then, twice over, he prostrates himself on the ground, before the heathen masters of the soil Ephron, the son of Zohar, is worthy of the occasion ; his courtesy matches that of the Patriarch himself: — 'The field give I thee, the cave  . . . . give I thee ; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee.' What is that betwixt thee and me ? ' It is precisely the profuse liberality with which the Arab of the present time places everything in his possession at the disposal of the stranger. But the Patriarch, with the high independence of his natural character (shall we say, also, with the caution of his Jewish descendants ?) will not be satisfied without a regular bargain. He ' weighs out ' the coin. He specifies every detail in the property ; not the field only, but the cave in the field, and the trees in the field, and on the edge of the field, were made sure. The result is the first legal contract recorded in human history, the first known interment of the dead, the first assignment of property to the Hebrew people in the Holy Land. 
 
To this graphic and natural scene, not indeed, by an absolute continuity of proof, but by such evidence as has been given above, the cave of Machpelah carries us back. And if in the long interval which elapses between the description of the spot in the Book of Genesis (whatever date we assign to that description), and the notice of the present sanctuary by Josephus, so venerable a place and so remarkable a transaction are passed over without a word of recognition, this must, on any hypothesis, be reckoned amongst the many proofs that, in ancient literature, no argument can be drawn against a fact from the mere silence of authors, whether sacred or secular, whose minds were fixed on other subjects, and who were writing with another intention. 
 
We remained at Hebron for that day and during the following morning. It had been our original intention to have left the place immediately after our departure from the Mosque, and encamped at some distance from the town. But Dr. Bosen predicted beforehand that, if the entrance were once made, no additional precautions would be required. *They will be so  awe-struck,' he said, ' at the success of your attempt, that they will at once acquiesce in the fact.' And so it proved. Although we were still accompanied by a small escort, the rigid vigilance of the previous day was relaxed, and no indications appeared of any anger or vengeance. 
 
In the early morning I visited, in company with Dr. Rosen, some of the remains of antiquity on the wooded hill facing the town of Hebron on the south. An ancient well on the slope of the hill is sometimes called 'the Spring of Abraham,' sometimes 'the New Spring' Ain-el-Jedidi ; this last title, as often the case in local designations, indicating rather the antiquity than the novelty of the place in question. It is vaulted over with masonry, and the channel, when not filled with water, is believed in the neighbourhood to reach to the Mosque. In this vault the local tradition (attaching itself to the curious mistake before noticed, respecting the connection of Adam with Hebron) represents that Adam and Eve hid themselves after their flight from Paradise. Somewhat higher up the hill is a ruin called Deir Arbain (the Convent of the Forty Martyrs), consisting of old masonry, which Dr. Rosen conjectures to be the remains of the fortress built at Hebron by Rehoboam. In a corner of this building is the so-called tomb of Jesse

After surveying the exterior of the Mosque, we rode over the hills, south of Hebron, to visit the probable scene of the romantic transaction, recorded in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges, between Caleb and his daughter Achsah. A wide valley, unusually green, amidst the barren hills of the 'south country,' suddenly breaks down into an almost precipitous and still greener ravine. On the south side of this ravine is a village called Dura, possibly the Adoraim of the Book of Chronicles ; on the north, at the summit of a steeper and more rugged ascent, is Dewir Dan, which recalls the name of Debir the fortress which Othniel stormed on the condition of winning Achsah for his bride. — ' Give me,' she said to her father, as she rode on her ass beside him, ' a field,' — ' a blessing' — a rich field, such as that which lies spread in the green basin, which she and Caleb would first encounter in their ride from Hebron. 'For thou hast given me a south land' — these dry rocky hills which extend as far as the eye can reach, till they melt into the hazy platform of the desert. 'Give me 'also the "bubblings" {gulloth) of water — the upper and the ' lower bubblings.' It is an expressive word which seems to be used for ' tumbling, falling, waves,' and is thus especially applicable to the rare sight of the clear rivulet that, rising in the green meadow above mentioned (Ain Nunkar), falls and flows continuously down to the bottom of the ravine, and by its upper and nether streams gives verdure to the whole. The identification is not perhaps absolutely certain. But the scene lends itself to the incident in every particular. 
 
We returned by many a vestige of ancient habitations, chiefly the ancient wells and cisterns, and the winepresses hewn out of the living rock, — consisting of the reservoir for the pressing of the grapes, the channel through which the juice was to run off, and the cellar or cavity into which it was to fall. The wide extent of view and the number of traditional or historical localities included in the prospect, gave to this investigation of the neighbourhood of Hebron, and to our descent from its high elevation towards Jerusalem, an interest which equalled that with which I had traversed (in part) the same route on my first entrance into, the Holy Land in 1853. The advantage of an intelligent guide, like Dr. Rosen, to whom every spot was familiar, both in its ancient and modern aspects, rendered the journey doubly instructive. On the nearer hills we explored in detail the remains of the ' House or High Place of Abraham,' Ramet-el- khalil, the vestiges of the Temple, where the Patriarch had been almost worshipped by the Arabs as a divinity, and of the Oratory which Constantino had ordered to be erected, when at the Emperor's orders the sacred terebinth had been cut down, whence, as before remarked, the name still lingers in the adjacent field. 
 
On a conical hill close by, — possibly called from this incident Gebel-el-Batrak, the hill of the Patriarchy — is the traditional site of the vision in which Abraham received the promise. 
 
The wide horizon — the sea visible in the western distance — the traces of antique civilisation all around, all so well according with the destinies of his race — would entitle the prospect, if the tradition had better ground, to be ranked with those views which, as I have elsewhere observed, form such remarkable links between the history and the geography of the Chosen People. In the yet further distance to the north-east, a church or mosque on a hill-top deserves, at least, a momentary glance as the traditional tomb of the Prophet Gad or Nathan; if authentic, or even if only fanciful, how appropriately planted in the midst of those early scenes of David's life, in which those two Prophets played so large a part. From the hills to the- westward, the plain of Philistia lay flat beneath us ; and, as we advanced through their many undulations, we passed the ruins of the oratory which had stood on what the tradition of the fourth century marked out with considerable probability as the scene of Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian chamberlain at the well by the road-side, almost directly at the point where through a wide valley opens what is still the usual route to Gaza — and (at least as compared with the northern road), ' deserted' of villages. By the pools of Solomon, the green vale of Urtas, the Latin convent of Beit Jala, the Greek convent of the Cross, we returned to Jerusalem on the 5th of April, and left it on the following day for Bethel, Shiloh, and Nablus.

VISIT HEBRON TODAY!