This is the third part of my new novel which will be available in December.
Gerard and Claude-Yusuf raced into the room and headed straight for the cousins.
‘Shall we take you around Jerusalem?’ Claude-Yusuf asked. ‘We are most excellent guides.’
‘Claude-Yusuf knows everywhere and everything,’ Gerard said with pride.
‘That sounds a splendid idea,’ Simon said.
At that moment Agnes walked in from the courtyard.
‘But only if your parents agree,’ John said hurriedly so that she could hear.
‘Agree to what?’ Agnes asked.
The two boys ran to her, each grabbing a hand and looking up at her with pleading eyes.
‘The English have asked us to take them round the city,’ Gerard said. ‘We will be their guides.’
‘They have asked you?’ she said, feigning surprise. Her eyes went to the young men.
‘In a manner of speaking,’ said John. He felt his face redden.
Agnes glanced away. ‘If you promise not to be a nuisance to the gentlemen,’ she said.
The two boys wriggled with excitement. ‘We will, we will.’
‘I’m sure you will.’
She smiled at the men. ‘Are you certain about this?’
‘We don’t know the city,’ Simon answered. ‘We need experienced guides.’
‘I must see the church first,’ said John. ‘That is essential.’
Ten minutes later Gerard and Claude-Yusuf dragged the cousins out of the inn and led them through a narrow alley way. They were soon in the middle of a warren of streets and alleys. They moved fast, darting up and down, turning corner after corner until the two adults lost any sense of direction.
After a few minutes they walked through an arch into an open space.
In the centre of the space was a vast church.
The Ferriers gasped. They had never in their lives seen such a building. It dwarfed anything they had seen or could have imagined.
‘I’ve never seen a tree as tall as this,’ Simon said.
‘I think it’s even bigger than Nottingham castle,’ said John.
Simon’s gaze went from one end of the church to the other.
‘I tell you what, I think the whole of the Goose Fair could be lost inside it and the city church as well.’
John nodded, awestruck.
The Church of the Sepulchre was made of glistening stone. Its roof was covered with silver and two large domes with golden crosses appeared to float above the roof.
As John gazed upon it he felt as if he were being dislodged from his firm footing upon the ground, almost as if he dangled half-way between earth and sky.
He brought his eyes back to the ground, seeking for some sense of normality.
They were standing on the edge of the cobbled area in front of the church. It was thronged with people and the tumult of their noise was overwhelming.
Some looked similar to the people they had seen when they entered the city. Most looked like pilgrims from the west, travel-worn, filthy, staring at the glory of the church.
‘Well,’ said John, swallowing hard. ‘You’ve brought us here. Shall we go inside?’
He took Gerard and Claude-Yusuf’s hands and stepped through the porch into the church.
John was staggered by what he saw. Every wall was hung with tapestries. Gold figurines crammed every surface and the ceiling appeared studded with precious stones. The clear light of day flooded the interior; it was as if he had stepped into the Heaven of his imagination.
His eyes followed the long nave and rested on a huge alter-piece. His heart lurched at the sight of it. He wiped his eyes, took a breath and started down the nave towards it.
The alter showed scenes from the life of Christ: his birth, childhood, ministry and sacrifice, carved from fine-grained dark wood. John stared at the many faces of Christ in the screen. He was overcome, believing this to be the very image of his saviour.
Beside the alter piece was a large plinth made of fine marble. It was covered in flowers and small dishes of smouldering incense. In the centre of it was a rectangular slit which had, by some miracle of craft, been incised deep into the marble.
‘What’s this?’ Simon asked.
‘It’s where the True Cross usually rests,’ Claude-Yusuf said. ‘But King Guy took it with him in order to beat the Saracens.’
Simon smiled. John recalled Bernard’s words about this and wondered at them.
‘Let’s go this way,’ Claude-Yusuf said, tugging at John’s hand. ‘This is where dead people were buried.’
‘Is the tomb there?’ John asked. ‘Where Our Lord’s body rested before he rose again?’
‘There are bones there,’ Gerard said. ‘Lots of them.’
‘Show me where Our Saviour was crucified first,’ John said.
The boys looked blank. They had no idea that such a place existed in the city.
An old pilgrim had been listening to their talk from where he rested on a bench. He reached out for John’s hand.
‘The place you seek can be found in a chapel above us,’ he said. ‘Climb the stairs by the entrance to the church and you will arrive there.’
John thanked the pilgrim and turned to Simon.
‘I pray you cousin, will you take the children away for a while? I need to see Calvary on my own and quietly.’
‘Of course,’ Simon answered. ‘I understand.’
Simon bent down to the boys. ‘I’d love to see where people were buried.’ He said. ‘And their bones.’ He had hardly straightened before he was whisked away.
John returned to the entrance and climbed up the stairs which led to the place of the crucifixion. With each step his heart felt more deadened, his burden of guilt more heavy.
At the top of the stairs he paused, his hand upon the door.
Dare I go in? Am I so reviled, so lost that I cannot sully this holy place?
He closed his eyes and tried to calm his heart. He took a deep breath and stepped into the chapel.
- Part 2 of my Kingdom of Jerusalem novel #SampleSunday #Histnov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- The Common Knights of Jerusalem #SampleSunday #histnov (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
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