What should have been a simple, straight-forward job had now turned into a delicate negotiation that could explode at any moment into a feral brawl laced with war threats.
The ancient building meant a lot to every person under that roof. However, their pride seemed to be more important. It was hard to believe this all started over a ladder.
David was aware of the tensions that rested within the stone walls of the holy sepulchre.
When several religious denominations had to share a single space, it was no surprise that arguments regularly sprouted, and suspicion lay thick in every corridor. But he had no idea of how badly it would affect his job.
A stone mason by trade, his reputation was respectable enough that the Jerusalem church had asked him to come in and do an inspection.
It was an honour, of course. But as David stepped through the ancient arches and the wooden door opened with a loud, groaning creak, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
The site claimed to be the location where Jesus was crucified and then buried.
It was a place that pilgrims from all over the globe would flock to and pray since the 4th century. But as David took in the stone structure, all he wanted to do was cry. The scene was beyond painful to witness.
It was in utter disrepair. Dust from crumbling walls floated over the air.
Missing chunks of foundation competed with long cracks – all threatening to bring the entire place down. He pulled out his camera. Buy before he could snap a single photo, one monk stormed over. The battle had started.
“What do you mean no photos?” David asked in surprise. Even after explaining what he was doing there, it turned out he was only allowed to take notes.
It was non-negotiable. It was ridiculous. But the worst was about to come. And it would be over the silliest thing.
All he wanted was something to carry around and climb up on so he could get a better view of the neglect and disrepair.
But the moment he suggested using the old wooden ladder, the various monks all shook their heads as if David had asked to graffiti Jesus’ tomb with symbols of the devil.
One of the Catholic monks stepped forward and suggested to use a new one instead.
Maybe even one of the common chairs. The argument that erupted made David take step back in shock. He had heard the rumors, but this was beyond anything he could have imagined. Why were the monks having a fuming argument over furniture?
It turned out the fight was an old one – a battle that had lasted for over 250 years.
The ruling powers at the time declared that all 6 denominations would equally own the church and everything in it. It was a logical decision that created a religious stalemate.
It escalated after a complicated agreement that was reached 160 years ago.
From the Roman Catholic to the Greek Orthodox, every group had to agree on anything that happened within the walls – anything! Because of this, nothing got accomplished. It also resulted numerous huge fights that brough the police.
One monk wanted to participate in another denomination’s festival. The other group refused. An all-out brawl erupted.
Another time, an Ethiopian monk was “sit” protesting how another group used the roof space. His chair was moved slightly. Threats of religious war were thrown around like spiritual grenades.
David was shown an old photo of the church – and there, right in the forefront, was an image of the old ladder.
Centuries ago, a stone mason had apparently forgotten to take it down after repairs. But since they didn’t know which group he belonged to, no one could agree on its fate. It was literally illegal to move.
David let out a long sigh and continued to take down notes on the problem areas of the church. He had a feeling they weren’t going to like his report.
It would involve a mass overhaul in order to save the ancient sepulchre so future generations could enjoy it. It finally came time to deliver his verdict.
The reactions were as expected. The monks and priests started to yell back and forth – some agreeing with the changes, others blocking it for various religious reasons.
Some took the opposite stance of their “adversaries” just to be difficult. They didn’t like David’s alternative either.
The idea of patching the walls “just to keep things held together” sparked another fiery exchange.
Even with his golden reputation and pleading for them to see reason and save their beloved church, they coldly thanked him for his input and showed him to the door. David did not envy the next worker they called in.