10) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Christian Quarter is probably the busiest of the three in terms of tourism. A lot of pilgrims from all over the world come to the Christian Quarter specifically for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, so expect to see huge lines of people wanting to get into the church.
As you walk towards the church, you will be going through the busy market where Arabs sell all kinds of goodies for Christians:
Here is an Arab on one of the streets, browsing his phone across from his store:
You will also find stands full of all kinds of rugs, pictures and other goods for sale:
Always remember to negotiate with these folks! Whatever price they give you, start from half of their initial price and move up from there. Everything is negotiable on the markets – if you talk to a merchant who is not willing to negotiate, walk away.
Photographically, don’t forget to pay attention to all the details around you – there are lots of colorful doors and goods waiting to be shot:
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, most of the people come in groups led by tour guides. So if it gets too busy, just wait it out a little outside the church and you should be able to get in without having to wait behind people. If you are a Christian and you want to see the important sites and the relics, plan ahead and either come really early, or be prepared to wait in lines, sometimes for hours.
If you are waiting outside the church, take a look around and photograph the historic architecture and the people:
Right outside the church, look up and you will see the famous Immovable Ladder:
To the left of the church, you will find an old door with a cross on it. This area gets pretty busy in the afternoon, so either come early in the morning or in the late afternoon if you want to have it all to yourself:
Right before you get into the church, pay attention to its ancient gates that are scarred by tourists and pilgrims that have been coming here for centuries. I had to wait a while to be able to take a picture without someone passing by, but it was worth it:
Once you get in, to your right you will find some steps to climb in order to get to the first holy site known as the “Altar of the Crucifixion”. The lighting here was very tough (mostly lit by candles) and the number of people wanting to see the alter was overwhelming, so after waiting for a few minutes, I decided to move on, as it would have been tough to photograph anyway. I revisited the spot one more time later on and still found too many people there. Like I said, the Christian Quarter gets very busy with pilgrims and tourists from all over the world!
In the center area of the church, you will find the Stone of Anointing, where pilgrims bow down, kiss the stone and pray. Right across from it on the wall, you will see a mosaic depiction of Christ’s body being prepared after his death:
As you move left towards the Aedicule, you will come across a spot where people bring and light up their candles. I would recommend to hang out here for a bit and photograph the emotions of people as they light up the candles. Expect to see a lot of tourists from Russia! Here is a young woman from Russia looking down on the candle she just lit up:
The center of attention is obviously the Aedicule and that’s where you will see most of the action, with flocks of people waiting in a huge line to get in. Make sure to come here at high noon on a clear sunny day, because you will experience something truly magical. Light rays will be piercing through the dome into the church, giving you amazing photographing opportunities:
I wish I had something wider than the GF 32-64mm f/4 here, since I wanted to capture more of the Aedicule. Still, I was happy I could get most of the dome to fit in the frame, although I had to bring my camera pretty low to be able to do that.
As you photograph the dome and its surroundings, don’t forget about the people here. This nun was sitting on a bench and waiting for the others, so I took the opportunity and photographed her as she looked up at me:
11) Other Churches
The Christian Quarter has a number of great churches to visit and photograph. As you walk in the area, you might be presented with some interesting viewpoints. I waited in this spot in front of St. James Cathedral Church for a while, hoping for someone to appear at the end of the alley. Unfortunately, since I was with a group, we could not wait for long and had to move on:
Don’t forget to look up occasionally – there are all kinds of interesting structures to photograph in the area. This clock tower sits right next to St. James Cathedral Church:
And here is a view of St. James from one of the narrow side streets:
As you start progressing towards the Muslim Quarter, you will come across other spots significant for the Christian religion. For example, the below public fountain was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and named “Sebil Sit Mariam” due to its proximity to the place where Virgin Mary was born:
And as you go right past it, you will come to the birth place of the Virgin Mary:
I did not have a chance to see inside – it was pretty dark and there were people sitting on the stairs, so I moved on.
Lastly, don’t forget to watch around you all the time. These two nuns were right behind me as I was walking in the Armenian Quarter. I quickly turned the camera on, turned around and took a picture:
12) Austrian Hospice
At the end of the Christian Quarters, very close to the Muslim Quarters, you will find the Austrian Hospice, which offers very nice views of the Old City. As you climb up the stairs in the front area of the hospice, you will be presented with a view of the busy rooftops:
But don’t let this view discourage you, since the best spot is at the top of the building. The Austrian hospice knows that many photographers come here to photograph the view of the Old City, so they charge 5 shekels for entry. Not a big deal, since it is worth the cost to come to the rooftop. I took a few vertical shots from here and stitched them for a panoramic view of the city:
Unfortunately, the rooftop is only partially finished and available to use – the left side of the rooftop blocks the view of the Dome of the Rock for a wide shot, so unless you zoom in and take pictures of the details, you will end up with the roof obstructing view as seen above.
Not to worry, as I found a better spot to capture the Old City, which I will reveal in the next section of the article where we will discover what the Muslim Quarter is all about!
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