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Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, one of the holiest places for Christianity in the world. Therefore, this is the church everbody is trying to emulate, in so many places around the world. This is the original, basic sanctuary. In normal times, the place would have been packed with thousands of tourists and pilgrims, who came to worship and see on the tomb of Jesus. This is the dome of the Rotunda and the Aedicola - the tomb structure that contains the assumed burial site of Jesus, from which he was resurrected, according to the New Testament. The Orthodox Christians call it the "Church of the Anastasis" (resurrection).

This church is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic churches in the world. It is ancient and complex. and holds within it the last five stations of the cross, the Hill of Calvary, and the tomb of Christ.

Major sites within the basilica


The pictures, left to right, top to bottom:

1. The church within the Christian Quarter.

2. The parvis of the church 3.

The main nave, the Katholikon.

4. The dome of the hall with Jesus Pantocrator (Ruler of all).

The Rock of Golgotha/Calvary ​​Hill

Today, Calvary ​​rock is located inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and is virtually hidden by a two-story chapel structure, which helps large numbers of the faithful reach and touch the top of the rock. They can also and insert a hand into the space inside the stone where it is believed the cross stood. It is designed to protect the rock from pilgrims seeking to break off relics of the stone to take home, as has been the practice in the past ...

1. Golgotha/Calvary ​​Hill, the place of the crucifixion according to tradition: the tip of the rock where the cross was stuck. 2. Pilgrims bend down to feel the place of the cross in stone.

The Stone of Unction

The Stone of Unction, the place upon which the body of Jesus was laid, when it was taken down from the cross. Pilgrims prostrate themselves at the place where Jesus' body was laid, where they anointed him with oils according to the Jewish purification rites. This is not the holy tomb and is found at the entrance to the church.

The tomb of Jesus

1. The structure of the tomb inside the rotunda, the aedicula. (Photo: Ami Meitav). 2. The rotunda and the aedicula, the structure of the tomb with the crowd filling it in the pre-pandemic days. 3. The Great Dome of the Rotunda.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher stands above the place where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and buried. The Romans sentenced him to death by crucifixion and he was led in a procession, carrying a cross on his shoulders, from the palace of the Roman governor to a quarry that then stood outside the city walls.

Ascent to Calvary by Tintoretto, 1567 and The Crucifixion by Andrea Mantegna 1467

Jesus was crucified on a rock, which stood out in a quarry (Golgotha, a skull in Aramaic, Calvary) and died on the cross. It was a Friday, so he was temporarily buried in a tomb hewn in the quarry, due to the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. On Sunday, when the tomb was reopened, it was empty. According to the New Testament, Jesus was resurrected, as there were testimonies of those who saw him later. Forty days after his crucifixion, he ascended alive to heaven, from the Mount of Olives, according to the New Testament.

Possible reconstruction of the site of the crucifixion, outside the city walls, made according to recent studies in collaboration with National Geographic.

The church was built about three hundred years after the crucifixion, in 328 CE, ostensibly on the remains of the same quarry, where Jesus was crucified and buried that had meanwhile been included within the city walls. A huge, monumental and impressive church was built on the site, which has become a great holy site for worship and adoration, the object of yearning, and a subject of conflict for seventeen hundred years.

The church was founded by Empress St. Helena, to whom we have dedicated a chapter. The church was already then characterized by a huge dome above a central and round hall ('Rotunda'), which covers the structure of the tomb, which is inside a shrine called the 'Aedicula' in the heart of the church.

The Holy Sepulcher throughout the ages

Here is an excellent presentation by "National Geographic" on the historical development of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, based on recent research and excavations in the church, on behalf of the National Geographical Society in which its various forms can be seen.

Many cities and churches around the world have tried to emulate Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In Europe, most were built during the Crusader period, when pilgrims visited Jerusalem and restored its sites when getting back home, but there were some cities which since the dawn of Christianity in the fifth century, had already tried to recreate Jerusalem, especially in Europe. Due to that, they sometimes restored certain elements, which have been destroyed, altered or eliminated in Jerusalem itself in later periods, through fires, wars, due to earthquakes or political destruction of objects inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is known, for example, from historical records, that the tombs of the Crusader kings of Jerusalem were scattered throughout the entrance hall of the church, with magnificent statues over them. They were eliminated by the Greek Orthodox after the great fire of 1808, in the pretext that they were destroyed. There are rumors that they are still kept in one of the hidden cellars of the Basilica ... however, some hint of their existence is found in Temple Church, London!

See the virtual tour of Jerusalem emulated abroad in Jeruaslem Everywhere

Temple Church in London

I hope you've enjoyed this visit. Join me for real next time..

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