How A Miracle Led to the Destruction of Jerusalem and The Crusades

When your magic trick doesn’t go over well

Grant Piper
4 min readMar 27


(Public domain)

Every year on Great Saturday, the day before Greek Orthodox Easter, dozens of high ranking officials from the Greek Orthodox Church meet in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The church is ancient, having originally been built by Constantine the Great during Roman times. The Orthodox adherents come to celebrate the annual miracle of the Holy Fire. Every year on this special day, an eerie blue light is said to emit from Jesus’s tomb, and a column of fire appears, representing the Holy Spirit. The attendees light candles from this pillar and prepare their hearts for Easter.

This miracle takes place every year on the same day, and it has been celebrated for hundreds of years, dating back to the 9th or 10th centuries. The miracle has long been a source of contention and derision in religious circles. Many people believe the miracle has long been faked, and it has been a source of regular religious fervor and fighting in Jerusalem for over a thousand years.

For example, in 2002, a fight between Armenian and Greek bishops broke out inside the church. During the fight, one of the bishops blew out an Armenian candle not once but twice. There was an uproar when the exasperated Armenian holy man relit his candle with a cigarette lighter which cast doubt on the authenticity and sacred nature of the Holy Fire.

All of this is to say that the Holy Fire makes people feel a certain way. That is exactly what happened in 1009 CE when the annual miracle allegedly rubbed the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem the wrong way.

The Destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In September 1009 CE, reports made it to the ruler of Jerusalem, the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, that the annual miracle of the Holy Fire was an elaborate hoax. A disenfranchised member of the Orthodox church reportedly spilled the beans to the Muslim lords in a bid to discredit his religious rivals in the church. But this anonymous whistleblower got far more than he bargained for.

The reports seemingly enraged the Caliph, who saw it as a farce that spat in the face of Islam. Muslim scholars…



Grant Piper

Thought provoking articles, when time and payouts permit it.