Elizabeth Southerden Thompson Butler


Letters from the Holy Land, 1903

Elizabeth Southerden Thompson Butler (Switzerland 1846 – Ireland 1933) was a noted British painter and writer. Following her long voyage to the Middle East she has left us an account of Bethlehem as a typical Palestinian village at a time in history prior to the numerous upheavals of the twentieth century that were to transform it into what we see today.

Description of the population and arrival to the Holy Place

The hill country we passed through was very stony and rocky, and only cultivated here and there. Again olives and stones, stones and olives everywhere. The inhabitants are a splendid race, the men athletic, the women graceful, though their faces are sadly disfigured by tattooing. […] We ascended Bethlehem’s hill and were soon in its steep, narrow, slippery stone lanes, utterly unfitted for a carriage. We drove at once to the Franciscan Convent and then to the Church built over the site of the Nativity, and had the happiness of kneeling at the sacred spot where the manger stood, which is shown in the rocky vaults below, and marked with a white star inlaid in the floor.

Letters from the Holy Land, London, Adam and Charles Black, 1903, pp. 31-32

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