Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and is known as the Church of the Resurrection to Eastern Orthodox Christians. It is revered as the site of Golgotha or Calvary, the spot where Christ was crucified. It is also widely believed to be the site of his burial (sepulcher). It is the holiest of Christian sites, and has been a pilgrimage destination since the fourth century. It Is located less than 2,000 feet from the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount, which are the holiest sites in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.

As Golgotha is the end of Christ's last journey, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is set at the termination of the Via Dolorosa, the route he walked from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate and imprisonment to his crucifixion and burial. The Via Dolorosa begins at the Lion's Gate (the first Station of the Cross) in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and contains the 14 Stations of the Cross. Stations 10 to 14 of the Cross are all within the church. Station 10 is where Jesus was stripped, and is just outside the entrance to the church. Station 11 is just inside the entrance, marking the spot where he was nailed to the cross. The Rock of Golgotha marks the spot where he died. This is Station 12, and here is the church's lovely Medici altar from Florence, Italy. Station 13 is where he was taken down from the cross, and is where there is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. Station 14 is the tomb and place of resurrection, and is inside the chapel. The actual Rock of the Calvary, around which the Church of the Resurrection was built, is here and visible under glass on either side of the main altar.

Most scholars believe in the historic accuracy of the geography involved in the location of this Christian site. It appears that early Christians held religious rites on this site beginning with the resurrection. After the city was occupied by Romans, the Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Aphrodite here in 66 AD. When Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 AD, he began construction on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 326 AD. The Rock of Golgotha was reputedly uncovered by the builders. His mother, St. Helena, is said to have found three crosses, one of which was supposedly the True Cross.

The church was almost completely destroyed in 1009, and it was subsequently partially rebuilt. It was this Church of the Resurrection where the knights of the First Crusade prayed. Their leader, Godfrey of Bouillon, became the first Christian King of Jerusalem and "Defender of the Holy Sepulcher." The history of the church can be seen in the mixtures of various architecture, which is a mixture of Byzantine, medieval, Crusader, and modern elements. Additionally, the church is jointly administered by orthodox and apostolic Christians from Greece, Armenia, and Ethiopia—in addition to the Roman Catholic Church. Their artistic and architectural influences are also evident.

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