In 1884, the artist went to Syria and Palestine. Impressions of this trip caused a desire to create a series of paintings on the completely unusual for Vereshchagin plots of the Gospel. They are interpreted in a very original way, quite different from the traditions accepted in the European fine arts.
In the paintings of Vereshchagin, the life of Christ is interpreted realistically, often in the spirit of ancient traditions and data of historical and ethnographic sciences, which the official church recognized as the purest sacrilege. In Russia, all the evangelical paintings of Vereshchagin were generally banned.
Gospel paintings gave rise to a wave of terrible indignation of the Catholic clergy. Exhibited at one of Vereshchagin’s exhibitions in Vienna, these paintings so “offended” the Catholic Church that the Viennese archbishop, Cardinal Ganglbauer published a whole appeal against them and their author.
After a trip to the Middle East, Vereshchagin also performed a number of paintings depicting historical monuments and architectural ensembles. Among them – “The Wall of Solomon” (Solomon’s Wall) and “In Jerusalem, the royal tombs” (both 1884-1885gg.).
The painting “Solomon’s Wall” depicts the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem.
“The Western Wall” (Hebrew Ha-Kotel Ha-Maaravi) is a part (485 m long) of the retaining wall around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,
The wall was erected by King Herod (37-4 years BC) as a supporting wall supporting the earthen embankment, which was poured to increase the area of the Temple Mount during the reconstruction and expansion of the Temple building. This wall was built without a fastening mortar from rows of smoothly hewn stones (average height of stones is 1-1.2 m, length – 1.5-3 m, some reach 12 m) with a slightly protruding rectangular panel on the front side. To give the wall greater stability against the pressure of the earth masses of the embankment, each subsequent row of masonry recedes from the previous one in depth. As the lower rows of the masonry were covered with earthen deposits (by the beginning of the nineteenth century, only the top five rows of the Irodian masonry remained above the surface of the earth), the wall was built up.
The Wailing Wall is the most sacred place for Jews. Already in the first centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, it became a place of prayer where the Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple and pray to God for the revival of the people of Israel in his country, a place that symbolizes Israel’s former greatness and hope for its future. Religious Jews all over the world are praying toward Israel, Jews in Israel are praying toward Jerusalem, and Jews in Jerusalem are praying toward the Western Wall.
Near the Wailing Wall one can find prayers at any time of the day. The Western Wall draws Jews from both Israel and the countries of the Diaspora. The custom of millions of people around the world began to put notes between the stones of the Wailing Wall. They are asked to send health, prosperity, salvation and good luck. For the first time this tradition was mentioned in the book “Padé Abraham”. The book gives a story about how a great Jewish sage and a knowledgeable Kabala Rabi Chaim Ben Atar wrote a note asking for wealth to be given to his disciple and ordered this disciple to invest it in the Western Wall of the Temple. Experts say that Rabbi Chaim Ben Atar’s disciple was another sage known as Hida. The latter soon smiled luck. In another book “Mea Shearim” the importance of this custom is given, because the mention of a person’s name for good in the Holy places has a special power. According to the teachings of the sages, the main aspect of prayer is the work that a person does in the heart. Thus, at the time of writing the prayer, the request is already said. The subsequent mention of the person’s name and his request at the Wailing Wall promotes a better and faster prayer.
Millions of worshipers and tourists from all over the world come to Jerusalem every year to see the Wailing Wall and leave a note requesting the Almighty between the stones of the wall.