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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
"Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. 
So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there." - John 19:41-42
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is also called the Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) by Eastern Christians, is built over the place that many Christians believe was the location where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again on Easter Sunday morning. The hill of Calvary where Jesus was crucified on Good Friday was called Golgatha in Hebrew, which means the place of the skull. Jesus was buried in a nearby rock cave and tomb (also called a sepulchre) which had been hewn out of the rock. The early Christians had marked the spot and prayed there. In 66 AD the Romans beseiged Jerusalem and destroyed the city in 70 AD. Most of the survivors fled, but a few remained or returned to pray at the holy sites.


cross-section diagram of church built over the hill of Golgatha and the cave with the rock-hewn sepulchre

In 132 the emperor Hadrian refounded Jerusalem as a pagan Roman city and in 135 built a pagan shrine at the place of the tomb. Eusebius (260-340 AD), an early church historian, recalled that he had seen with his own eyes how the pagan temple had been built over the cave which had served as the Lord's tomb (Life of Constantine 3.26). Jerome, a Bible scholar who lived in Bethlem in the 4th century, also later described how the pagan temple had been built on top of the site after it had been filled in and paved over: 

"On the rock of the cross a statue of Venus made of marble was venerated by the pagans" (Ep.58.3)
The Emperor Constantine (274-337 AD) removed the pagan temple and built the first church on the site sometime between 326-335. It was a large basilica called the Church of the Resurrection, which was dedicated in 335. Thousands of pilgrims came to Jerusalem, especially during Holy Week each year. 

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386), an influential early church theologian and bishop who lived most of his life in Jerusalem, was very familiar with the site of Golgatha and tomb of Christ. He testified that the builders of the Church of the Resurrection had left enough of the original rock of Golgatha visible for people to view: 

"Golgatha here, the pre-eminent, which is still visible today and still shows how the rocks were split because of Christ that day [Matthew 27:51-54]; by the grave nearby, where he was laid; by the stone which was placed over the door, and still lies next to the tomb today..." (Catechesis 13:39).
The Church of the Resurrection was damaged by fire in 614 and restored in 630. It was destroyed in 1009/10 by Caliph Hakim of Egypt, and partially restored in 1048 during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachus. Between 1144-49 the Crusaders rebuilt and enlarged the church. It has been renovated a few times over the last few centuries. This church is the most sacred place for Christians in Jerusalem. 


[floor plan of 4th century church - see next page for more details.]


dome with mosaic of Christ Ruler of All over the Greek Orthodox altar


entrance to the Holy Sepulchre

See also | Jesus' Entombment | Holy Week in Jerusalem |


See | Jesus' Entombment | Holy Week in Jerusalem |


Entrance with stairs leading to site of the crucifixion

Pilgrims from every nation and tradition pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Six Christian groups occupy the church and offer religious services and liturgies  - Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, and Ethiopians.


visitors from many faiths gather in front of the entrance


Catholic chapel near site of the crucifixion


Related sites | With Jesus in Jerusalem | At the Temple | The Cenacle | Garden of Gethsemani | Kidron Valley | Golgatha |  
 | Tomb of Christ | Empty Tomb | Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Resurrection |
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(c) 2001-2013 Don Schwager