Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world. It is identified as the place both of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.
The 12th C structure is located on the traditional site of Golgotha, the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus.
About 10 years after the crucifixion, a third wall was built that enclosed the area of the execution and burial within the city, and this accounts for the Holy Sepulchre’s location inside the Old City of Jerusalem today.
The Roman emperor Constantine I, a convert to Christianity, had the temple of Venus in Jerusalem demolished to make way for a church. In the course of the demolition a tomb was discovered that was thought to be the tomb of Jesus. According to the Bible, the tomb was close to the place of the Crucifixion (John 19:41–42), and so the church was planned to enclose the site of both cross and tomb.
The church was built starting in 326 AD by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated in 335 AD.
It originally consisted of three connected structures: a basilica, called the Martyrium; an open-air atrium called the Triportico that was built around a protruding rock, the traditional Rock of Calvary; and an open-air rotunda, called the Anastasis (Resurrection), which contained the remains of a cave, the traditional burial site of Jesus. By the end of the 4th century the Anastasis had been covered by a dome.
Twice destroyed (614 and 1009 AD) and rebuilt (628 and 1048 AD), the church was last rebuilt, as a single, large structure, during the Crusader Period and re-dedicated on July 15, 1149.
Most of the visible, external structure of today dates from the Crusader period or later but evidence from earlier periods can be seen inside, e.g., walls, arches, floors, etc. Parts of the rotunda and some of the north wall, as well as foundation components not open to the public, date back to the original Constantine structure.
The original entrance was on the east end of the Martyrium, facing the Cardo. When rebuilt by the Crusaders, the main entrance was moved to the south side of the church. Originally the Crusaders built two side-by-side doors but after the Muslims regained control of Jerusalem under Saladin in 1187, the right hand door was sealed. The left hand door is the entrance used today for entering the church.
Reasons to believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the authentic site for both Calvary and the Garden Tomb:
- Archeology has shown that this was an unused quarry during the early 1st Century and was found just outside the city walls prior to 41AD.
- This is in keeping with Scripture which seems to indicate that He was taken through one of the Gates of Jerusalem and crucified just outside of the city walls (see Mark 15:20 and Hebrews 13:12).
Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in better shape than it has been for five hundred years. Light and space have returned to its ancient halls, and its walls and pillars stand sound and true. Saving the Holy Sepulchre is the riveting story of how Christians put aside centuries of division to make this dream a reality.