JEREMIAH’S GROTTO AND ST. STEPHEN’S CONVENT IN JERUSALEM
OR SKULL HILL AND THE GARDEN TOMB
This photograph may have been taken before General Charles Gordon, a British war hero, on a visit to the Holy Land in 1882, saw something that caught his attention as he walked along the top of Jerusalem’s walls. He noted that the rock formation looked like two eye sockets with a broken-off nose between them. He announced to the world that he had located the site of the “place of the skull” where the Romans had crucified Jesus. British Christians purchased the site which also included an ancient tomb, winepress and large cistern, assuming this to be the wealthy Arimathean’s garden with its newly-hewn tomb described in John 19:41. A lovely garden is now part of the site run by the Garden Tomb Association. When this photograph was made there was a Moslem cemetery at the top of the hill with Jeremiah’s Grotto underneath it where tradition says the Prophet Jeremiah penned his “Lamentations.” In the 19th century the Dominican convent of St. Stephen was built on the site where in 460 C.E. the Byzantine Empress Eudocia erected a basilica to the memory of St. Stephen, who according to Apostles VII, 58-59, was stoned by the inhabitants of the city. This is situated about 300 metres north of Damascus Gate. Although the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is traditionally known as the site of Golgotha (the place of the skull) many thousands of visitors every year visit the site of the GardenTomb and enjoy the quiet spirituality of the place. Scholars and archaeologists believe that the GardenTomb is from the First Temple Period, hundreds of years before the time of Christ.
PHOTOGRAPHER: FELIX BONFILS, 1831 - 1885
The signature “Bonfils” appears on thousands of photographs taken by three members of the Bonfils family; Felix (father), Lydie (mother), Adrien (son) and possibly one Abraham Guiragossian, an Armenian, who took over the Bonfils studio in Beirut about 1907 and ran it until 1932. Felix and Lydie went to Beirut in 1867 from France and worked together until son Adrien joined them in 1877. When Turkey declared war on France, Adrien was imprisioned and Lydie deported to Cairo. Guiragossian continue to manage the Beirut studio, maintaining the name “Bonfils,” selling prints from Bonfils negatives and possibly signing that name to his own work.
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