Sacred Destination -The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old City of Jerusalem


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old City of Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) to Eastern Orthodox Christians, is a church in the Old City of Jerusalem that is the holiest Christian site in the world. The Roman Emperor Hadrian erected a large platform of earth over the whole area for the construction of a temple to Venus.  A statue of Jupiter was on the site for 180 years (140-320 A.D.), when Constantine converted the empire to Christianity, he had the pagan temples dismantled, the earth removed and a Church built over the spot. Originally built by the mother of Emperor Constantine in 330 A.D., the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is believed to be constructed on the hill of crucifixion and the Church also includes the Empty Tombwhere the Jesus Christ was buried (The Christ rose from the dead after three days). The original Byzantine church was destroyed by the Persians in 614 A.D.  Rebuilt shortly thereafter, the Egyptian Caliph Al-Hakim destroyed the Church in 1009 and had the Empty Tombdemolished to bedrock.

Ceiling of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Ceiling of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Photo credit: slack12)

The Crusaders rebuilt the church and much of what is standing today is from that time period. Inside the church is a rocky outcropping which is the traditional place where the cross was placed.   Archaeological excavations have demonstrated that this site was outside the city but close to one of its gates and thus would have been a good location for a crucifixion. Other first-century tombs are still preserved inside the Church.  “Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea” and other burial shafts (kokhim) are clearly from the time of Christ’s death and attest to some kind of burial ground in the area. The eyewitness historian Eusebius claimed that in the course of the excavations, the original memorial was discovered. However, he also claimed that all three crosses (those of Jesus and the two thieves) were found at the site.  In recent times, a fire (1808) and an earthquake (1927) did extensive damage. Not until 1959 did the three major communities (Latin’s, Greeks, and Armenians) agree on a major renovation plan. The guiding principle was that only elements incapable of fulfilling their structural function would be replaced.

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