Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers.

It's a secret world through a labyrinth of chapels and altars, a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, a unique fusion of people and cultures.

Tucked away, deep in the maze of winding, narrow streets in Jerusalem’s Old City, stands the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most famous religious sites in the world.

The church was built on the spot where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, buried and resurrected, the very place where Christianity was born. The church was constructed by the Byzantines and rebuilt by the crusaders. It remains the most popular destination for countless Christian pilgrims form across the globe.

Clergy and believers chant words of prayer in a mix of languages last heard in the Tower of Babel. Bishops conduct exotic rituals in biblical Aramaic as other ancient tongues echo through the darkness of Christianity's most sacred shrine. Mysterious monks circle the tomb swinging aromatic incense, as rays of magical light break through. It is an enigmatic mix of rituals belonging to some of the earliest Christian sects.

Over the past 17 centuries people from all over the world have been drawn to the ancient, sacred stones as if by a magnetic power: pilgrims in ecstasy, enlightenment in their eyes, praying with the ultimate expression of devotion, not leaving before they have touched, kissed, prayed and knelt before every sacred altar. Outside, transfixed worshipers carry wooden crosses as they retrace the last steps of Jesus along the winding path of the Via Dolorosa that comes to an end at the Holy Sepulcher.

Christians are an ever-dwindling minority in the Middle East and the different streams share a common concern about their future in the region. But they are often divided, each fighting a constant battle to preserve its ethno-religious identity.

A centuries-long struggle over power and territory left the church divided among six denominations of Christianity. The fierce devotion with which each faction guards its turf is legendary. Three main sects — Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian — have principal custody of the church under an edict issued in 1852 by the ruling Ottoman Sultan. The additional denominations, Coptic (Egyptian), Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian, are given space and rights within the church. 

About the photographer:

Gali Tibbon was born in 1973 in Jerusalem, where she is based. She majored in documentary photography in 1999 at The Jerusalem School of Photography and began her professional career as a photojournalist at a local news agency. In 2000 she began collaborating with Agence France-Presse (AFP), covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With more than a decade of experience in the Middle East, her work has taken her on assignments in Turkey, Cuba, France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, Ethiopia and Ukraine.

In recent years Gali has been exploring the theme of religion, focusing on faith through pilgrimage and rituals, baptism in the Jordan River, Christianity in Jerusalem, the ancient Samaritans, Ethiopian Christianity and pilgrimages across Europe.

Gali's images are published regularly worldwide in the world's most reputable newspapers and magazines. Her work has been projected and exhibited in several photo festivals and galleries including the Visa pour L'Image International Photojournalism Festival of Perpignan, Museo das Peregrinacions in Santiago de Compostela, International Photojournalism Festival of Gijon, Spain; Le Rencontres d'Arles Photographie; the Galway Arts Festival, Ireland; and War Photo Limited Museum, Dubrovnik.

Gali has been the subject of two documentary films: "Mirrors of War" directed by Patrick Chauvel, which was widely screened in international film festivals, and "Women in Photojournalism," produced by the Knight Center for International Media.

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