‘Holy Fire invades the church, a fast-breeding light transfiguring faces, transforming the dark stone space. I hear gasps and cheers and sobs and tears. The emotion is overwhelming, the heat suffocating . . .’
Every Easter the ‘miracle’ of the Holy Fire is enacted in front of hundreds of the faithful in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. For centuries, Orthodox Christian pilgrims have made the arduous journey to witness it: the proof they need that God favours them far above all other Christians, as well as Jews and Moslems. Holy Fire presents the unending battle waged by various denominations of Christian churchmen for their saviour’s empty tomb as the microcosm of centuries of wider Christian power struggles. Victoria Clark deftly weaves history, reportage and religion into a fluid and fascinating account that includes the aggressive campaigns of medieval Crusaders, the empire-building of the nineteenth-century European powers, Britain’s decision to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917, and today’s zealous, though unlikely, champions of Israel’s cause, the Christian Zionists. She explores the contribution that the Christian world has made to the unfolding tragedy of the Holy Land – at a time when it has never been more urgent for the West to see itself as others see it.