One of the interesting recent stories is that my father was contacted by an Armenian American doctor who invited him to the USA to have him put an original tattoo for him (probably cost him more than a hundred tattoos!), but for him, the authenticity and the heritage was all that mattered.In this more elaborate example, the cross of the equal lengths has a similar cross in each of its quarters, a symbol known as the Jerusalem Cross.Above it are three crowns and a star with its lowest point extending downward. This tattoo was probably used to commemorate a pilgrimage to Bethlehem with the three crowns standing in for the three wise men, plus the star of Bethlehem.Customers looked at the blocks and picked their design.The tattooer would then use the block to stamp an ink impression on their skin, using it as a guide for tattooing.Many artists have learned from him and he has been mentioned in many books and magazines that discuss the history of tattooing (especially religious and Christian tattoos).
Some of the most well known and best documented examples of piligrimage tattoos comes from John Carswell’s book of Coptic Christian tattoo designs.
Today we continue this family tradition offering tattoos to visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem.
My grandfather, Yacoub Razzouk (known also as Hagop or “the tattooist”), was the first tattoo artist in this country to use an electric tattoo machine (which was powered by a car battery) and the first to use color as well.
In the tattoo/coffin-making shop of tattooer/coffin-maker Jacob Razzouk, Carswell recorded the designs of 168 wood blocks that were carved with various, mostly Coptic Christian, tattoo designs.
The blocks and the trade had been in Razzouk’s family for generations.
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Prominent among them is, of course, the Jerusalem cross.