Good oil, bad oil. While in Berlin activists desecrated a work of art with unholy oil, the oil that Charles III used in Jerusalem has now been blessed. to be anointed at his coronation in May. The ceremony, led by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the city's Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum, took place on Friday at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus Christ is said to have been buried.
The recipe of the holy anointing oil called "chrisam" has remained unchanged for centuries. It is perfumed with sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin, amber oil and orange blossom. Archbishop of Canterbury Marcus Welby, who will crown Charles on May 6, 2023, emphasizes that the oil represents the "deep historical connection between the coronation, the Bible and the Holy Land".
This connection is manifold and not always obvious. First, as King, Charles is the head of the Anglican Church. On the other hand, his paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, the mother of Prince Philip who died in religious madness, is buried in a monastery garden on the Mount of Olives. The olives used now come from there.
In addition, the song "Jerusalem," written by visionary painter-poet William Blake and set to music by Hubert Perry, is the unofficial second national anthem. It emphasizes England's special place in the world and recalls the legend that Jesus himself, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea, once visited Glastonbury - long before the place developed global appeal through its rock festival.
Blakes Verse beschwören den Mythos: „And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England’s mountains green?/ And was the holy Lamb of God/ On England’s pleasant pastures seen? (…) I will not cease from mental fight/ Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand/ Till we have built Jerusalem/ In England’s green and pleasant land.“
The title of the best British play of the last few decades alludes to Blake's poem: “Jerusalem” by Jez Butterworth. His hero Johnny Byron, nicknamed "Rooster" the rooster, is a Falstaff in his own right who doesn't need a young king: a spoilsport of youth, a folk poet, a storyteller, a drunken sage and a crook in the everyday struggle for a piece of life. But also a poetic symbol of England, of everything that was good and charming about the rough-and-tumble people of this country and especially those areas that the English call "Countryside" - a term that is much more mythically charged in their language and culture than that German "the country". "The Countryside" - for traditionalists, this is the real England, where in villages among green hills thrive the lads who fought the battles of Agincourt, El Alamein and Waterloo.
The play, which premiered in London in 2009, took 13 years to come to Germany. In local theaters, the underlying mythology seemed imminent. It was not until 2022 that the Staatstheater Augsburg dared to do the German premiere.
In England, Jez Butterworth could be trusted to understand the allusive title of his play. "Jerusalem" is not only considered a church hymn today, but also the most popular patriotic song in England. It is sung by nationalists as well as by suffragettes who fought for women's emancipation. It was also played at the wedding of Charles' son William.
But Blake's dream of English Jerusalem has not yet been realized. Otherwise you wouldn't have to fetch the oil from far away. On the contrary: England is one of the most de-Christian countries in Europe.