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What's The Story Behind Jerusalem's Immovable Ladder?

This ladder has been in a church window for more than 200 years because no one can agree what to do do with it

02/12/2016 12:56 PM AEDT | Updated 04/12/2016 8:31 PM AEDT
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The immovable ladder on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem

It's small, wooden ladder, perched under a church window. Old wood. Dusty, even from a distance. It's the kind of thing a janitor might use to reach the high glass.

And for almost 360 years, no one has been able to agree on what to do with it.

Why?

Well, it's no ordinary church, which makes it no ordinary ladder.

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
The immovable ladder has been in place at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for at least 260 years.

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
The ladder has only been moved twice in more than two centuries because the six churches who govern the site can't agree on who'll take possession of it

Or maybe it is just an ordinary ladder, depending on where you're coming from.

The so-called "immovable ladder" has been outside outside a window at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jeruselam's old City since at least the 1750's.

The Church itself, located in the Christian quarter behind the high walls of Jerusalem's Old City, is a cavernous and ancient network of buildings (all up, it's more than 1,600 years old) and erected on what's traditionally been the sites where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and resurrected.

People pack into the courtyard of the church through two small gates, forming a mass of bodies at the entrance to the church which is nestled within the confined and vibrant streets and markets of the old city.

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
Crowns of Thorne hang outside the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre's courtyard.

The building is managed in separate parts by six of Christianity's oldest churches under a complex tradition called the Status quo, which stems from a decree by Ottoman Sultan Osman III in the 18th century (and the occasional intervention of European powers).

So because everything in the Church is shared, none of the six churches who govern the site can agree on who'll take possession of the ladder. And so it remains. Incidentally a Muslim family has cared for the keys to the church for centuries.

The ladder, though, despite its name, has been moved twice, once in 1997 and again in 2009, for brief periods.

AOL/ Eoin Blackwell
A woman worships inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre In Jeruselam's old city.

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
Worshipers inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
Worshippers kiss the 'anointing stone' inside the entrance of the Church. The stone is traditionally held to be the site where Jesus' body was prepared for burial.

Inside and outside the church, faithful line up for hours to worship, undeterred by the renovations inside the cavernous -- but beautifully decorated -- network of old buildings within.

AOL/Eoin Blackwell
A Mosaic depicting the body of Jesus inside the entrance of the Church

In October the assumed final resting place of Jesus was opened for the first time in at least 500 years as preservation experts attempt probe and analyse the stone slab where Jesus was placed after his crucifixion.

AFP/Getty Images
A Franciscan friar looks at the exposed the Tomb of Jesus, where his body is believed to have been laid, as part of conservation work done by a team of Greek team of preservation experts in Jerusalem on late on October 28, 2016.

The Status Quo, hasn't always kept the ladder -- or the peace -- in place, with monks and worshipers known to occasionally fight at the site.

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