Under the year 1229 the continuator of William of Tyre’s chronicle mentions certain details of the Easter Day liturgy as it was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, served by a staff of canons. The deacon sang the Gospel from a marble lectern, called Le Compas
, placed in the middle of the choir. When he reached the word ‘crucifixum’, he turned towards Calvary, whose supposed site lay to the right of the high altar as viewed from the choir; at ‘surrexit, non est hic’ (‘he is risen, he is not here’) the deacon turned and pointed with his finger to the Sepulchre, placed at the opposite end of the church from the high altar. All over Latin Christendom in the Easter Day liturgy some use was made of an appointed place in the church called the ‘sepulchre’, together with quasi- or fully-dramatic stagings of the visit to the tomb. In the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem these stagings and gestures were distilled to a quintessence – a simple turn of the head and a pointing with the hand – as if the actual sites of Christ’s Passion nearby overwhelmed any more theatrical response.
from notes by Christopher Page © 1998