Videos: Monks and Priests Frequently Erupt in Fisticuffs at Christianity’s Two Holiest Sites

Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on Golgotha, the hill where Jesus is said to have been crucified, and where he was buried, and where he allegedly rose. How do clergy behave when entrusted with he holiest site in all of Christendom? Not very godly at all, Slate explained in a piece yesterday:

Under an 1852 mandate, the care of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared by no fewer than six Christian denominations: the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syriac Orthodox churches. The Holy Sepulchre’s edifice is carefully divided into sections, with some commonly shared, while others belong strictly to a particular sect. A set of complicated rules governs the transit rights of the other groups through each section on any given day, and some of the sections of the church remain hotly disputed. Arguments and fistfights over territory and boundaries are not uncommon.


One such area is a small section of the roof which is disputed between the Copts and Ethiopians. At least one Coptic monk at any given time sits there on a chair placed on a particular spot to express this claim. On a stifling summer day in 2002, a monk moved his chair eight inches to find shade. This was interpreted as a hostile act and violation of boundaries, and 11 were hospitalized after the fight that ensued.

In fact, there are frequent fights between the warring factions of priests and monks who claim to be the caretakers of Christianity’s most venerated sites.

Here’s a 2008 battle from the Holy Sepulchre that went on for ten minutes despite police with batons trying to restore order. At the 50-second mark, watch as a brawler brings down what appears to be a fairly massive pole, perhaps a stand of some kind, with such force that it could have shattered someone’s skull.

Another round of violence occurred at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem in late 2011. This video, despite the absence of the Benny Hill soundtrack, is actually somewhat more comical, as the weapons of choice are brooms, a fact that holds somewhat less potential for blood and broken bones.  The reporter reminds us that “there have been similar scuffles in the past.” Watch the holy men bristle as they sweep through the birthplace of their Savior:

Remember folks, per Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

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