Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This exquisite model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is made of olive wood and inlaid with mother-of-pearl, bone and ebony. It was constructed with the intention of being sold as a souvenir to pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. Interestingly, the model can be taken apart so that the architectural details of the interior can be revealed, allowing pilgrims to recall their journey to the individual areas of religious significance within the building.
The square courtyard floor is inlaid with mother-of-pearl design to imitate a mosaic floor and it also has a cross pattée in the centre within a circle of inlaid decoration and outer square border of inlaid mother-of-pearl decoration. On the walls of the church there are inlaid mother-of-pearl quatrefoils and rosettes. The detachable dome has a spiral flight of steps made of inlaid bone and mother-of-pearl on one side. Around the bottom of the dome, there are four inlaid bone inscriptions in Latin that indicate the four primary directions: Meridies (South), Oriens (East), Septentrio (North) and Occidens (West). Under the detachable cupola, there is a model of the Tomb of Christ made of inlaid mother-of-pearl. Furthermore, the square bell tower has five tiers with arched windows that are defined by fine bone columns.
Craftsmen working in Franciscan monasteries in the Holy Land may have been influenced by the detailed plans and drawings made by Bernardino Amico, a Franciscan friar, who arrived in Jerusalem in 1593. Amico’s architectural surveys of the main shrines and chapels in the area were published in his book, Tratto delle piante & immagini de sacri edifizi di Terra Santa (1609), where he emphasised that his detailed account of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre aimed to provide a working scheme to anyone who wished to build a model of it.1
There are similar models of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre held in several prestigious institutions, including: the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (AN1887.3089.2009.2), the British Museum in London (OA.10338), the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (2016.91), the Museum of the Order of St John in London (LDOSJ 3034, LDOSJ 3033 and LDOSJ 3035),2 and the Burghley Collection in Stamford, Lincolnshire (EWA08635).
1. See, Zur Shalev. 2012. Sacred Words and Worlds: Geography, Religion, and Scholarship, 1550–1700. Leiden: Brill. p.114.
2. Michele Piccirillo. 2007. La Nuova Gerusalemme: Artigianato palestinese
al servizio dei Luoghi Santi. Bergamo: Edizioni Custodia di Terra Santa. p.87.