понедельник, 28 января 2013 г.

2. Tombs of the Prophets

Tomb of Nabi Bulus (Paul the Apostle)
مقام النبي بولس
קבר נבי בולוס

"Nabi Bulus" in Arabic means none other than St. Paul, the hero of Acts and the author of fourteen epistles from the New Testament. It is believed that Muslims hate Paul for misrepresenting the "true teachings of Prophet ‘Isa," i.e. Jesus Christ, and instead of the "true religion of Allah," preached by ‘Isa ibn Maryam, created Christianity. Modern Muslims may think so, but their ancestors thought differently. In the Middle Ages Muslims revered Paul as one of the prophets. A prominent Islamic scholar Ibn Kathir (1301–1373), for example, in his interpretation of the Quran mentioned messengers Shamoun (Simon-Peter), Yuhanna (St. John) and Bulus (Paul) as faithful followers of Prophet ‘Isa. Speaking about Bulus, Ibn Kathir pointed out that he preached in Antakya (Antioch of Syria). It is clear that information about Bulus-Paul Islamic scholar learned from church tradition.

The tomb is located to the south of Beit Jimal Monastery and is directly adjacent to residential areas in Ramat Beit Shemesh. It can be clearly seen from the Highway leading to the interchange Beit Shemesh Darom. Structure consists of the tomb itself, 4.5 x 12.6 m (rooms A and B), and the prayer hall (mosque), 6.4 x 12.6 m (room C). Under the prayer hall there is quite a spacious storage with a pointed vault. Burial chamber is crowned by a small dome. Not so long ago a stone cenotaph of Nabi Bulus could be found in the tomb (A. Petersen still had a chance to look at it in 1994); but now it is not there, though one can easily identify the spot on the floor where it was standing.

In the religious complex were from the north, through the central arch. So the room B can be considered as a hallway or living room, from which fell into the burial chamber (A) and the prayer hall (C).

Plan of the tomb (from the book of A. Petersen)
Photo by H. Berger of 1930s

Photo of 1994. View from the north (from the book of A. Petersen)

According to the Western Christian tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome and buried in the same city. Recently under the altar of the Roman Temple of San-Paolo-Fuori-le-Mura a sarcophagus with fragments of human bones, in which they saw the remains of the great "Apostle to the Gentiles", was opened. However, the Muslim tradition holds that Paul died in Palestine and was buried in the Holy Land. Khirbet an-Nabi Bulus – a small hill, where the concerned tomb is situated – has long been known.
It is noted by E. Robinson, E. Smith and other travelers of the first half of the 19th century. V. Guérin in Description géographique, historique et archéologique de la Palestine says: "This Muslim tomb should be better called the sanctuary or a small Christian Monastery in honor of St. Paul. Anyhow, the wall surrounding it, judging from what remains of it, was partly built of blocks of pre-Islamic era." (Judee II 374)

C. Conder in his The Survey of Western Palestine gives the description of the tomb: "Heaps of stones round a Kubbeh. The latter is modern, with a cenotaph and a vault below, which looks like Crusading work, and is entered by a door on the west having a lintel with an ornamented boss. North of this building is a fine birkeh. The site has evidently been that of a small village." (SWP III 123)

View from the north

View from the west

View from the east

V. Guérin was inclined to attribute the beginning of the construction of this monument to the Byzantine period, and C. Conder – to the time of the Crusades. However, they both ascribe its construction to the Christians. In this case, it is difficult to imagine that Christians would place the burial place of the Apostle Paul here ignoring the tradition of the Church, which states Rome as his death place. The only option remaining is to believe that this building became the tomb Nabi Bulus later, when the Muslims took possession of it. Perhaps, according to the assumption of V. Guérin, Muslims’ notion of the matter was influenced by the fact that a Christian monastery that once existed in this place was named after Apostle Paul.

Next researchers shared the views of V. Guérin and C. Conder. A. Petersen, said though that "In view of the pointed form of the vault, it is more likely that it is a medieval construction (i.e. post Byzantine)." (2001, 226)

Entrance to the burial chamber

Dome of the burial chamber

Entrance to the prayer hall

In 1999, the archaeological excavations were carried out to the north of the tomb; traces of this are now no longer visible. They found pottery and other artifacts dated to the period of the Abbasid and Mamluk. As well as the remains of the cistern, about which V. Guérin and C. Conder were talking. Its construction dates back to the same period. The important thing is that archaeologists didn’t find anything that belonged to the Byzantines, the Crusaders, and Christians in general. From this point of view the assumption of V. Guérin and C. Conder about the existence of a Christian monastery here is doubtful. Therefore, identifying this place as a burial place of Nabi Bulus (St. Paul), Muslims relied on their own tradition.

Now the tomb of the person, to whom Christianity owes its triumph, is in an abandoned, filthy condition. Local residents, who inhabit Ramat Beit Shemesh, use it as a dump and a toilet. Judging by the pictures of the 1930s and photographs in the book by A. Petersen the monument goes to ruin rapidly. A large arch collapsed in front of room B and so did the ceiling of the prayer hall (C). Further destruction is a threat to the tomb.

Visited: 29.07.12
Location of the object on Google Maps

References: Robinson 1841, III 17; Tobler 1859, 120; Guérin, Judee II 374; Quarterly statement, III 94; SWP III 24, 123; Palmer 1881, 309 (Sheet XVII); Petersen 2001, 226
Hadashot Arkheologiyot; Hadashot Arkheologiyot

Tomb of Nabi Jibrin (Prophet Gabriel)
مقام النبي جبرين
קבר נבי ג'יברין

The most revered sanctuary of the former Palestinian settlement Beit Jibrin has survived to the present day. It is located on the entry to the Beit Guvrin National Park and is well seen from the 35-th Highway at the crossroads of Guvrin. Describing this construction, A. Petersen names it the Sheykh's Tomb and does not tell the name of the buried person. Since old times this structure has been known as the tomb of Nabi Jibrin (i. e. Prophet Gabriel). C. Conder presented the case as follows: "The present name, Jibrin, was thought by the Crusaders to have some connection with the angel Gabriel, and they seem to have erected a church to St. Gabriel, of which only the north aisle remains, though the site is still remembered by the peasants, who there venerate a piece of open ground, which probably marks the old nave, and is now dedicated to Nabi Jibrin, "the Prophet Gabriel"." (1879, II 150)

Photo by H. Berger (1930s)

The entrance to the tomb from the northern side, there are two windows along sides from the entrance. Here is the description of A. Petersen: "The interior of the tomb is roofed with a domical vault (i.e. no squinches or pendentives) and there are small niches in the west and east walls. In the north-west corner is a rectangular hole which marks the position of a (now destroyed) cenotaph. The most interesting feature of the interior are the wall paintings executed in red henna. These occur on all four interior walls and traces can be also found on the exterior around the east window. Designs include trees, wavy lines, and a variety of abstract forms." (2001, 122)

View from the north-east

View from the east

View from the west

View from the south-west

We can see the same nowadays. Let’s specify, however, that a cenotaph stood not in the north-western but in the south-western corner. Right here there is a corresponding recession in the floor. It should also be noted that there is no mihrab in the tomb.

Photo of 1994 (from the book of A. Petersen)

Interior. South wall

Interior. South-west corner

Until recently the Muslim shrine has been in abandoned condition. An almond tree twined with ephedra (Ephedra foeminea) grew on the tomb’s cupola. Quite recently administration of the Beit Guvrin National Park took care to give a decent appearance to the ancient monument. The almond tree was cut down (a protruding stub remained from it), besides, bushes which threatened to absorb the tomb were removed.

Visited: 31.07.12
Location of the object on Google Maps

References: Quarterly statement IX 98; Clermont-Ganneau, ARP II 440; Conder 1879, II 150; SWP III 271, 294; Palmer 1881, 377 (Sheet XX); Canaan 1927, 285; Petersen 2001, 122

Tomb of Nabi Kifl
مقام النبي كفل
קבר נבי כיפל

Impressive structure (8.85 x 10.05 x 3.15 m) with two domes near moshav Tirat Yehuda is called Tomb of the Prophet Kifl. The north side of the building is adjacent to the large courtyard with a wall and ruins of some other structures. A stone staircase attached laterally leads to the roof of the building.

The Prophet Dhu'l Kifl is mentioned in the Quran (21:85). According to most researchers he is the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel. And according to T. Canaan the shrine of Nabi Kifl was known as an important shrine and traditionally had a festival on the 14th day of the Islamic month of Sha‘ban (1927, 215; Petersen 2001, 227).

View from the north-west

View from the north

View from the south

To enter the sanctuary one has to walk through a low rectangular door on the north side. As A. Petersen noted, it seems likely, however, that the doorway is a later insertion and that originally there was a wide-open arch (2001, 228). The building itself is divided into two adjacent vaulted chambers, or iwans, separated by two arches. Each chamber is crowned by a dome. In 1994, A. Petersen saw in the chamber on the left-hand side (east) the broken remains of a cenotaph. Not a trace of them remained. It is worth noting that if the cenotaph stood at the entrance of the first chamber, in which there is no mihrab, such location of the cenotaph is very unusual for Muslim shrines.

In the south wall of the second room there is a mihrab, which, according to the same researchers, is entirely covered with symbolic paintings in red henna. The motifs used include crescent moons, stars, suns, triangular latticework, and forms resembling the finials used on domes or banners (Ar. ‘alani) (Petersen 2001, 228). Now most of those drawings are erased, and the mihrab current Arab pilgrim have left their own inscriptions.

The mihrab

The domes

View from the east (Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)

Plan of the tomb (from the book of A. Petersen)

Photo of 1990s

Route: from the Highway 4613 take the turn to Tirat Yehuda, pass the whole moshav till its southern extremity and drive in the south-west direction for about 400 meters.

Visited: 02.08.12
Location of the object on Google Maps

References: SWP II 269; Palmer 1881, 216 (Sheet XIII); Stewardson 1888, 131; Canaan 1927, 215; Petersen 2001, 227–229
Wikipedia: Tirat Yehuda; The Archaeological Survey of Israel

Tomb of Nabi Sawarka
مقام النبي سراقة
מקאם נבי סוארכה

Vehicles driving along the 55th Highway almost brush against the walls of this modest building. Its current name is the Tomb of the Prophet Sawarka. C. Conder’s Tent Work in Palestine (1879, I, 231) and the old maps state that Nabi Serakah was situated here. A sacred tree once grew near the tomb, but now not a trace of it remains. According to some reports, it is the tomb of the Bedouin Sheikh from Negev named Nabi Serakah or Sawarka (Suwarka) (NIG 2001, VII 94). It is believed that the building dates back to the Mamluk period. The construction is surrounded by the remains of Ottoman period cemetery. The archaeological excavations have found here artifacts from different eras, starting with the Roman-Byzantine (Hadashot Arkheologiyot).

View from the east


In 1991, A. Petersen saw a large crack running through the west side of the building (2001, 235). Photo in his book shows that the dome of the tomb, standing on an octagonal drum, was once white. The current structure, as we can tell from the presence of concrete in the masonry, is a re-built tomb. In 2011, the dome and the lintel (top crossbeam above the entrance) are green. Probably the stone cenotaph of the prophet Sawarka was also covered with green cloth, but now the covering is gone. In 1991, A. Petersen noted that a rectangular cenotaph was lying along the west wall; but currently the cenotaph is lying along the north wall.

Photo of 1991 (from the book of A. Petersen)

On the other side of the Highway opposite the tomb of the Bedouin sheikh there is a Tomb of Benjamin – a former Muslim shrine now privatized by the Jews.

Tomb of the Nabi Yamin 1926

Tomb of the Nabi Serakah (Sawarka) and Tomb of the Nabi Yamin (Benjamin)
Photo of 1991 (from the book of A. Petersen)

Tomb of Benjamin

Visited: 02.08.12
Location of the object on Google Maps

References: Conder 1879, I 231; Palmer, 1881, 188 (Sheet XI); Stewardson 1888, 132; Clermont-Ganneau, ARP II 339–340; Petersen 2001, 235; NIG 2001, VII 94
Wikipedia: Tomb of Benjamin; The Archaeological Survey of Israel; Hadashot Arkheologiyot

Tomb of Nabi Shit (Prophet Seth)
مقام النبي شيت
קבר נבי שת

Muslim name "Shit" reproduces the biblical "Seth", - is the name of the son of Adam wore. Muslims revere this very patriarch and his honor was erected a magnificent tomb in the village Bashshit (now within Israeli settlement 'Aseret). Bashshit is actually Beit ash-Shit - "Resident Seth."

Photo by H. Berger (1931)

Dimensions are tombs (11 x 9 m) that A. Petersen also calls it a mosque. He describes it as follows: "The mosque, known as Nabi Shit, stands on the side of a hill in the centre of the former village Bashshit. It is an 'L'-shaped building with a long rectangular courtyard to the east. At the west end of the courtyard is an arcade of three vaulted bays, two in front and one behind. Two of the bays are domed whilst the third bay (on the north-east side) is roofed with a cross-vault. The north wall of this bay contains a small blocked window. To the south are the two domed bays, both with south-facing windows. The south-east bay also has a mihrab and a fixed minbar set into the south wall. A doorway at the back of the south-west bay opens into a small dar room covered with a tall dome. In the south wall of this room is a very shallow mihrab. Externally both mihrabs are visible as conical buttresses. The location of the tomb of Nabi Shit is not clear although it seems likely that it was in the inner room.

The age of the building is unknown although it certainly dates to before the mid nineteenth century. The present structure is not likely, however, to be much older than the sixteenth century although the shrine itself may be more ancient" (2001, 110).

View from the east

Plan of the tomb

View from the south


The mihrab

Location of the object on Google Maps

References: Guérin, Judee II 66; Olesnitsky 1878, II 184; SWP II 409 ; Palästina-Vereins II 144; Palmer, 1881, 272 (Sheet XVI); Stewardson 1888, 132; Clermont-Ganneau, ARP II 184; Gautier 1898, 94–95; Khalidi 1992, 362; Petersen 2001, 110

1 комментарий:

  1. Isareal is a holy place for all the Jews, Muslims and Christians of the world. It is a house to many Holy prophets. Thanks for sharing the pictures of their tombs!