Holy Sepulchre: affect-inducing objects in the making of sacred borders
Georgios Tsourous (University of Kent)
Paper short abstract:
The study traces the use of Christian devotional objects in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre and focuses particularly on their capacity to authoritatively mark space and time in and around the tomb of Jesus (known as Edicule).
Paper long abstract:
The study discusses Christian devotional objects and their varied employment in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre (also known as Church of Anastasis), the place hosting the sites of Jesus crucifixion and burial. Within the Church, fragile legal agreements between different Churches, and the intersection of ethnicity and theology, create a complex reality of overlapping borders, strict time-schedules and a fragile coexistence among the resident communities. A variety of objects, such as candles, comprise a special category of devotional objects used in everyday worship in the Church, yet they are also employed to mark the use of space, indicating access to particular shrines at particular times for the custodians in the Anastasis. The study traces the use of these objects and focuses particularly on their capacity to authoritatively mark space and time in and around the tomb of Jesus (known as Edicule). Their authority emerges from their semiotic form (Keane 2007) as objects indexing both ritualistic affect for the custodian monks as well as being agentive signs which would stop other custodians from accessing the shrine at a particular time. By drawing on long term ethnographic work in the Church, the study argues that material aspects of coexistence in the Church of Anastasis, such as affect-inducing devotional objects and their use by the custodian groups, shed light on the making of sacred space and time as well as the shaping of territorial borders between the communities cohabiting the Church.