Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Watercolor Travel Journal- Sketches from the Holy Land Part 6 - Garden Tomb, Ein Karem and Bethlehem

This is our last full day in Israel and we are visiting the Garden Tomb, Ein Karem and Bethlehem. Shabbat continuous to be observed until sundown by the Jewish people.

Garden Tomb
Since it was unearthed in 1867, the Garden Tomb located just outside the walls of old Jerusalem, was considered by some Christians  to be Golgotha, the site where Jesus was buried and resurrected in contradistinction to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which has been traditionally set as the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus since at least the 4th century. Today, the Garden Tomb and its surrounding gardens are maintained by volunteers as a place of Christian worship and reflection.  Whether you believe this is the burial site of Jesus or not, it is easy to reflect and imagine this to be the area or similar to where Jesus was buried, with the tomb carved out of the rock, a weeping chamber and a burial chamber. It was sealed with a rolling stone, as the tradition of the day. We entered the tomb through a low doorway. This place brings the scriptures to life.

The Garden Tomb - Jerusalem

I decided to do a painting depicting Jesus coming out of the tomb.

Ein Karem

On the west side of Jerusalem lies the picturesque village of Ein Karem. According to tradition, this is where St. John the Baptist was born.  Some of the notable sites we visited in Ein Karem are the Church of St. John, Mary's Spring and the Visitation Church. Ein Karem is a popular weekend destination for folks in and around Jerusalem because of its peaceful atmosphere, quaint old Arab houses and beautiful garden and the religious and historic sites. Many artists and academics have taken up residence here.

The Church of St. John is built over Byzantium and Crusader chapels. Below the main church is a chapel set in a cave. On the floor is a marble star with the inscription "Hic precursor Domini natus est." which translate to "Here was born the precursor of the Lord." It marks the spot where St. John the Baptist was born.

Outside in the courtyard walls are several large ceramic tile plates of the Benedictus (the song of thanksgiving by John's father, Zechariah when his son was born, written in different languages
My watercolor travel journal showing my sketch of St John's Church in Ein Karem

This sign was on the gate to the Church of  St. John. It can be spotted in all Custodia Terrae Santae, sites administered in the Holy Land by the Franciscan friars.  This symbol, commonly known as the Jerusalem Cross, was the Crusaders  sign of  Jerusalem as was adapted by the Franciscans as their symbol. It is based on the  5 Holy Wounds and the crucifixion.

We crossed over to a place called Mary's Spring, which was the central water supply of the ancient village of Ein Karem - ein (spring), Karem (vineyard). Legend says that the Virgin Mary stopped here to drink the water and the spring was named after her. A mosque was built over the spring in the 19th century.
Mary's Spring - Ein Karem

From Mary's Spring,  we climbed up the hill on the side of the mountain to reach the Visitation Church. This was our most steep climb of the trip and were grateful that we are doing it now and not at the beginning of the trip. The Visitation Church was built over the summer house of Zacharias and Elizabeth.  The church façade has a large colorful mosaic depicting Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth. During this visit, according to scriptures, Elizabeth's baby leaped in her womb and she was filled with Holy Spirit. This is when The Magnificat was recited by Mary.  Similar to the Church of St. John,  the walls of church's courtyard are filled plaques of The Magnificat written in different languages. There is an upper church and a lower church. Inside are beautiful frescoes of scenes from the Bible and mosaic floor in the Byzantium style.  A rocky cave inside the church is where it is believed that John's parents hid  the baby John during the Massacre of the Innocents.

The Magnificat
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.

The statue depicting The Visitation found the courtyard of the Visitation Church

After Ein Karem, we drove over to town Bethlehem, which is in Palestinian territory, located just about 6 miles from Jerusalem.  Israeli citizens are not allowed inside so our guide had to leave the bus before we crossed the border. A Christian Palestinian took over as our guide after the crossing. We proceeded to the Church of the Nativity, entered though a very low door to evoke humility and respect.  We were in line for almost 2 hours to get to the grotto where Jesus was born which is located underneath the main altar of the church. While in queue, we admired the Greek Orthodox altar filled with so many beautiful religious icons as well as the remaining frescoes on the church columns and the Byzantium floors unearthed below the present level of the church floor today. Once inside the grotto, there is an altar with a silver star on the floor underneath which marks the birthplace of Jesus and on the one side was the manger.

The Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Armenian Apostolic jointly manage the church. I was saddened by the state of disrepair of this, the oldest and most important church in the world (originally commissioned in 327AD, destroyed and rebuilt in 565AD)) - the roof is leaking and almost all of the mosaics and frescoes have disappeared or were destroyed.  Adjacent to the church is the Catholic church of St. Catherine and a Franciscan Monastery. This is where the Roman Catholic services are held.

After visiting the church, we went over to manger square where we had lunch of kebabs, rice and salads. It was delicious. A stop to view the Shepherd's Field,  Herodium (fortress and burial place of Herod the Great) in the distance and some quick shopping for olive wood products and other souvenirs, we crossed the border to Israel and head back to our hotels.

The Bell Tower of The Church of the Nativity - Bethlehem, Palestine

This ends our trip in Israel. It was a trip filled with wonder and amazement and the company of a great group of people. I feel spiritually nourished by the trip and my knowledge of the origins of my religion enhanced and enriched by the sights, sounds, feel and taste of this Holy Land. I am so thankful and blessed..
Our Pilgrim Certificate

Note: All sketches were painted on an Arches Carnet de Voyage Travel Book with artists grade Schmincke and Daler Rowney watercolors.

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