The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the most sacred destinations and magnificent monuments of the Christian faith. It was built on the site where, according to the writings of the New Testament, Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. It is located on the Golgotha Hill at the end of the Via Dolorosa in the center of the Old City Jerusalem.
The Altar inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre
Brief History of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
It was first established in 333 AD by Roman Emperor Constantine. Legend says that his mother Queen Helena, later St Helena, discovered the place of Golgotha during her visit in 326 AD. The site was selected.
When the Persians arrived in 614 AD the church was leveled and a new church built. Proof of that is the mosaic found in nearby Madaba Jordan depicting a map of the Holy Land and its holy sites including the city of Jerusalem and the original basilica that stood there.
After the conquest of Jerusalem by the Arabs in 638 AD the basilica was partially restored. The new rulers respected Jesus as one of the prophets and his tomb and honored the church.
Interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The Arab rulers destroyed the church
Much late around 1000 AD the Arab rulers of the time leveled the church. This destruction may have sparked the Crusaders that wanted to regain control of the Holy Land for the Christian Faith.
From 1099 to 1187 the city of Jerusalem was in the hands of the Crusaders. In 1149 they restored the Basilica but when the city fell under the forces of Saladin, the Arabs honored the church and gave the key to some Arab Families that keep it until this day.
After a few attempts by the Crusaders to regain control of the city and failing on their efforts a treaty was reached between Saladin and Richard to allow pilgrims to visit this holy site.
The Church’s control is in the hands of different Christian denominations, each having some kind of responsibility. These sectors are Catholics, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Coptic and Ethiopian.
Entrance to the Tomb of Jesus Christ
When visiting Old Jerusalem you may pay a visit to this Holy Site. You begin by descending a few stairs. The walls are covered by crosses incised by pilgrims during hundreds of years. Going down you’ll find the Armenian Chapel where as tradition says Queen Helene found the sacred cross.
The main floor features the Edicule. Many pilgrims express the feeling of spirituality when they visit this sacred place. Nearby is the stone where legend says the body of Christ was prepared for burial. At this place and at any moment you may find Christians praying fervently. The mosaics behind the stone are awe inspiring showing the moments when Jesus was taken from the cross and placed on the tomb.
A few steps further up the site of the actual crucifixion are marked and you may see pilgrims waiting in line patiently to touch the stone they consider so sacred.
Up a steep flight of stairs, the site of the crucifixion itself is marked by both a Greek Orthodox and a Catholic altar, where Christians from around the world stand patiently in line waiting to touch the rock they hold sacred.
Domes of the Church as seen in Old Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located at:
Saint Helena Street in the Old City of Jerusalem
Hours of Operation are:
Summer Hours (April-September)
Winter Hours (October-March)
Most of the Church and its chapels are open to the public
A visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is great spiritual experience.
images are courtesy of wikimedia commons
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