Gate of the entrance-door to the Church of the Resurrection.


Cartographer(s): Ermete Pierotti
Date: 1864
Place: London
Dimensions: 20 x 29 cm (7.75 x 11.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG+

In stock

SKU: NL-01784 Category: Tag:

An evocative mid-19th century depiction of the famous entrance door to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.


This view depicts the main portal to the Church of the Resurrection, better known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the locus of Christ’s burial and resurrection. The atmospheric aesthetic of detailed architectural views such as this one was popular among Victorian travelers in the Orient. The building’s religious significance is, of course, paramount, but part of the purpose of this particular view was to instill in its viewers a sense of the historic and spiritual atmosphere of Jerusalem.

Located in the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem, The Holy Sepulchre is undoubtedly the most significant site in Christianity and a place associated with the most fundamental tenets of the Christian Faith. The large complex is believed to house two holy sites: Golgotha (i.e. the place where Jesus was crucified) and the rock-cut tomb where Jesus was buried and from which he was resurrected. Moreover, the church contains the last four stations of the Via Dolorosa, which represent the final episodes of Christ’s Passion. Control of the church is shared among several Christian denominations and secular entities in a complex arrangement that has stood for over 150 years. The Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches are the main denominations with property rights, while the Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches also have a presence.

Throughout its long history, the church has undergone several renovations, with each new structure incorporating elements from the previous building. The portal shown in this lithograph is part of the original building, which dates back to the 4th century CE. Pierotti identifies several features in the ornate doorway, which are highlighted using a numbered key:

1. Vestibule of the Church of the Resurrection.

2. Closed Door of the Church.

3. Entrance of the Church.

4. and 5. Byzantine ornamentation incorporated in the Door at the time of the Crusades.


Publication information

In 1864, the same year that the first British Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem was commissioned, Italian engineer Ermete Pierotti published Jerusalem Explored, a seminal work on the history, archaeology, and architectural history of the ancient and holy city. This work included Pierotti’s notes and insights after years of surveying and mapping under Ottoman authority. The publication was divided into a text volume and a volume of plates. The latter included 63 lithographs showing everything from strategic views, across architectural plans and section profiles, to panoramic vistas of the Old City. Most of the lithographed plates were based either on photographs or drawings made by Pierotti and his team.

The plates were lithographed mainly by Thomas Picken of London and printed by the prominent British lithography firm William Day & Sons.


Ermete Pierotti

Ermete Pierotti (1820-1880) was the oldest of nine siblings in a family from Pontardeto in Pieve Fosciana (the family built the Palazzo Pierotti, which has served as the town hall since 1877). Pierotti worked as a military engineer in Genoa and later served as a captain in the Engineering Corps of the Sardinian King. In 1849, he was accused of desertion and the theft of 3596 lire from the troop’s treasury, which resulted in a dishonorable discharge from the army. Pierotti then traveled to Jerusalem and Egypt, where he worked as an engineer. In Egypt, he discovered the foundations of the Alexandria Library while laying the foundations for a Greek church, but it was in Jerusalem that he would put his surveying and engineering skills to work. 

Pierotti arrived in Jerusalem in 1854 as a consultant for the Franciscan Order, which had custody of many of the Christian holy sites in the city. During his time there, Pierotti was involved in the restoration of the Crusader Era Church of St. Anne, located in the Old City near the Pool of Bethesda. Working with Ottoman engineer Assad Effendi, he later contributed to the restoration of the Qanat as-Sabil, the main aqueduct that supplied Jerusalem with water, which involved repairing the aqueduct’s channels and cisterns. Other building projects included work on the Temple Mount itself and the construction of both the Austrian Hospice and the so-called Alexanderhof (HQ of the Kaiserlichen Orthodoxen Palästina-Gesellschaft) in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. And finally, he helped design the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, a significant engineering feat at the time.

Pierotti became interested in the city’s history and archeology during his time in Jerusalem. He conducted several excavations in the Old City. He discovered several important artifacts, including an inscription in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that proved the existence of a church on the site during the Byzantine period. Pierotti’s work in Jerusalem earned him a reputation as a skilled engineer and pioneering archeologist. He became known for his attention to detail and ability to work under challenging conditions. In addition to his many projects, Pierotti’s legacy consists of publishing his magnum opus: Jerusalem Explored. A Description of the Ancient and Modern City (1864), which included an entire volume of lithographed plates based on Pierotti’s plans and converted photographs.

Despite his many successes, Pierotti’s work and position annoyed the British, who increasingly sought to establish a scientific presence in the Holy City, if not a colonial one. When competition arose between Pierotti and Captain Charles Wilson’s team of English Royal Engineers conducting the first Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem and surroundings in 1864, Pierotti’s reputation was deliberately tarnished by the disclosure of his criminal past, and for the rest of his life, he struggled to regain recognition for his achievements.

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