Point-blank: Palestine in the coronation

Mohamed Salmawy
Saturday 20 May 2023

If you were watching the coronation of Charles III, you might have noticed a golden eagle-shaped flask. It is crucial to one of the most sacred parts of the ceremony.


The coronation ceremony at Westminster Cathedral includes an ancient rite conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church, in which oil from that flask, known as chrism oil, is used to anoint the new king. 

Prior to that, the oil was consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, and the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Rev Hosam Naoum in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the site where Jesus was crucified. Rev Hosam Naoum, who took part in the coronation ceremony, personally delivered the sacred oil to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for the purpose. 

The oil, itself, comes from olives harvested in the Mount of Olives, home to the oldest olive trees in the world, and specifically from groves belonging to the Monastery of the Ascension and the Monastery of Mary Magdalene. King Charles visited the latter in 2020 in order to pay his respects at the tomb of his paternal grandmother Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark. Olives are pressed near the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and then scented with essential oils, spices and resins, such as rose and orange blossom, cinnamon and sesame, and amber and benzoin. The recipe for the holy oil is over 2,000 years old and was used for the first time to perfume the shroud of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Today, by some twist of fate, Israel is busily uprooting olive trees in the occupied Arab territories to clear the way for concrete blocks of Jewish settlements. In so doing, it is violating international law prohibiting the altering of the topographical and demographic character of occupied territories. Every olive tree in Palestine is imbued with a deep historical and symbolic significance intimately connected with the collective soul of the Palestinian people.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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