Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre 




1. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located about 450 yards (415 m.) west of the Temple Mount.


2. It was located outside the city walls during the time of Christ.


3. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the believed place where Christ was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead.


4. It is the ending place to the Via Dolorosa path, and the last 5 stations are located at it.


5. It is visited by over a million people every year.


Historical Background


1. About 10 years after the crucifixion of Christ, a wall was added to Jerusalem that enclosed the area of Christ’s execution and burial within the city. This accounts for the Holy Sepulchre’s location inside the Old City of Jerusalem today.


2. According to tradition, the early Christian community of Jerusalem worshiped at this site from the time of the resurrection until the city was taken by the Romans in 70 AD. 


3. In 135 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered that a cave containing a rock-cut tomb be filled in to create a flat foundation for a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, an ancient Greek goddess of sexual love and beauty, identified with Venus by the Romans.


4. In 326, the Roman Emperor Constantine had the temple of Venus demolished to make way for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the process of the demolition, a tomb was discovered that was thought to be the tomb of Jesus. Additionally, Constantine’s mother, Helena, is claimed to have discovered the relic of the Cross of Jesus at this time as well. The church was dedicated in 335 AD.


5. The crusaders renovated the church in 1112.


6. The right-hand door was blocked up after the Muslim reconquest of the city in 1187.


7. The three primary custodians of the church were appointed when the Crusaders ruled Jerusalem. They are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic churches. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox, and the Syrian Orthodox also acquired responsibilities as well but in a smaller way. Each church denomination agrees to times and places of worship.


8. A Muslim family has been given the key for opening and closing the church doors since 1187 when Muslims seized control of Jerusalem.


9. Because of all the adornments and construction over the centuries, it is hard to imagine how it would have looked like in the time of Christ. However, this 2000 years of activity and tradition gives greater weight to its authenticity.


10. Much of what is seen today is from the Crusader renovations from around 1112 AD., although portions are part of the original church of Constantine.


Places of Interest


1. The Chapel of the Franks (Station 10 of the Via Dolorosa) is located at the right of the entrance to the church.


2. A stairway on the right, just inside the entrance leads to Calvary (or Golgotha), the place where Jesus was crucified.


3. Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross (Station 11). It features a 12th-century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross.


4. The Greek Orthodox Calvary contains the believed Rock of Calvary around which the church was built. The rock can be seen under a glass cover on either side of the main altar. Beneath the altar is a hole that permits people to touch the rock.


5. The Crucifixion Altar marks the place where Christ was crucified (Station 12). A silver disk with a central hole that lies underneath the altar marks the place where the Cross stood.


6. The Stone of Unction (Station 13), located just after entering the church, commemorates the preparation of Jesus' body for burial. Behind the Stone is a mosaic depicting Christ's anointing for burial.


7. Underneath the large dome of the church is the Tomb of Christ itself (Station 14). It is housed in a large shrine and is referred to as the Edicule. It is supported by scaffolding on the outside to protect it from possible earthquakes. 


8. The Chapel of Adam enshrines a cracked slab of rock behind glass which is believed to have been caused by the earthquake after Christ died on the Cross.


9. The Catholicon (Greek Orthodox cathedral) area was the main part of the Crusader church.


10. Armenian Shrine and Chapel of the 3 Marys, also known as the Mourning place. It marks the place where they watched the crucifixion of Christ. John 19:25: Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.


11. The heart of the Holy Sepulchre is a large round hall, otherwise known as the Rotunda. In the center of the Rotunda is the tomb of Jesus.


12. In 2016 an archaeological team was given permission to lift the marble slate covering the tomb and found under it an older marble slab with a carved cross on it and underneath it the original limestone burial bed.


13. The Coptic Chapel is located behind the tomb of Jesus.


14. The Jacobite (Syrian) Chapel is located in the original 4th century Constantine church walls. Within this chapel are burial tombs, one of which is believed to be that of Joseph of Arimathea.


15. Chapel of Mary Magdalene. Dedicated to the encounter Christ had with Mary after His resurrection.


16. Franciscan Church of the Aspiration of Mary. Dedicated to the meeting between Christ and His mother, Mary, at Christ’s crucifixion.


17. Arches of the Virgin Mary


18. Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Prison of Jesus


19. St Longinus Chapel. Longinus was the believed Roman Centurion who commanded the soldiers that stood watch at Golgotha. He was an eyewitness of the final moments of Jesus and proclaimed the Jesus was truly the Son of God.

20. Chapel of St. James

21. Chapel of John the Baptist


22. Division of the Holy Robes. The place commemorating the dividing of Christ’s clothing.


23. Derision chapel. This place commemorates how the mob derided Jesus by mocking and laughing at him while He hung on the Cross.


24. Armenian Chapel of St. Helena. Within this area is the Chapel of the Invention (discovery) of the Cross of Jesus.


25. Rock of Golgotha enclosed in glass.


Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Bible


1. Jesus arrives at Golgotha and is stripped of His garments (Station 10 of the Via Dolorosa, for all stations, see Via Dolorosa).
John 19:23–24: When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, "They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”


2. Jesus is nailed to the Cross (Station 11).
John 19:17–18: And he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.


3. Jesus dies on the Cross (Station 12).
Luke 23:44–45: It was now about the sixth hour [12:00 pm], and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour [3:00 pm], 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.”


4. Jesus' body is removed from the Cross (Station 13).
John 19:38–40: After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.


5. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Station 14).
John 19:41–42: Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Faith Lesson from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre


1. While we might not agree with the decorations and atmosphere of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, do we appreciate all the devotion and sacrifice that has been made to remember and commemorate all Jesus did for us on the Cross?


2. The fact that this place, along with many others, have been preserved and set aside to honor Christ and the events of the Bible provide powerful evidence regarding the historicity of Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible. Do we truly believe the Bible and everything written in it?


3. There is another place that is considered an option as to where Christ died and rose again, and it’s called the Garden Tomb. It’s just a stone’s throw away. However, because we worship a person and not a place, the exact location isn’t the main thing. We can worship Christ and all He did for us anywhere. 

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