The Stone of Unction in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Stone of Unction is a particularly revered place within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Here, directly behind the entrance, pilgrims commemorate the anointing of Jesus’ body after he was taken down from the cross, John 19:39-40

Stone, Unction, Anointing, Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel, Holy Land, David Roberts,
The Stone of Unction, also known as the Stone of Anointing


In the description of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it was mentioned that the “Stone of Unction” was the first object of homage which meets the pilgrims on their entrance, and that it always attracts a large concourse, who exhibit the strong extravagances of foreign feeling and gesture. It is a long slab of polished white marble; but this is admitted to be only a covering for the true stone, to protect it from the casualties to which all relics were subject during the sway of the unbelievers.

The Turks, however, looking upon the whole ceremonial as an advantageous source of revenue, and an inducement for strangers to visit the city, seldom interfere, but to prevent tumult; and whether their toleration results from contempt or policy, it is practically complete.

The monks say that the stone, of which this marble is the cover, is the one on which the body of our Lord was laid, when given to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, and by them anointed for sepulture. It has as largely shared the general decoration of this sumptuous dome, as it does the homage of the pilgrims.

Having at each end three enormous wax candles upwards of twenty feet high, and with the light of a number of lamps poured upon it from above, it forms a striking centre for the first gathering of those picturesque and enthusiastic groups. The lamps are silver, and some of them of rich and curious workmanship, the gifts of the Greek, Latin, and Armenian convents, or of royal and noble devotees.

Note:  Limonadiere before triumphal arch of the Place du Carrousel. Paris, 1821.

Source: The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia, by David Roberts, George Croly, William Brockedon. London: Lithographed, printed and published by Day & Son, lithographers to the Queen. Cate Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1855.


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