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The Golgotha Frescoes: Tour Guide Course at Saxum

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On Friday, March 29, Saxum hosted its second course for tour guides, this time about the recently restored frescoes on Calvary, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The recently restored frescoes which adorn the ceilings and walls in the chapel of Calvary, were black with smoke and almost impossible to decipher, until they were recently restored to their original color last year by the Orthodox Christians. 95 tour guides who attended a course on the subject at Saxum, given by Dr. Yisca Harani, learned about the history of these paintings, which were commissioned in 1824 and tell the story, in 20 paintings, of Jesus’ Passion. As Dr. Harani said, these paintings deserve the kind of explanation that a museum would normally give to art with such ornate detail.

Dr. Harani went over each of the paintings, explaining the political and historical context which one notes in the style, and the Greek text from the BIble which titles each painting. She pointed out to the guides, for an example, that you can notice a tiny rooster in the background in the painting of “Peter wept bitterly”, or that the Romans in the paintings seem to be dressed in the clothes of the Ottoman Turks, who were the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of the paintings.

After the talk, the guides were given the tour of the Visitor Center, so they could get to know this new tool for helping pilgrims and tourists to better understand the Holy Land.

After a break for lunch, Henri Gourinard – the academic director of the Polis Institute of Jerusalem – gave a lecture about the origins of pilgrimage and Emmaus, which is the ending point of the Emmaus Trail. The Emmaus Trail is an 18 km trail, starting at the Saxum Visitor Center and ending at Emmaus Nicopolis, which hopes to provide a trail which people of all religions can hike and enjoy.

Next, the Visitor Center will host another course for tour guides, this one authorized by the MInistry of Tourism to count towards mandatory continuing education credit for guides, in which they will walk the Emmaus Trail and learn about the historical ruins there along the way.

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