Inside The Church of the holy sepulchre

1

Main Entrance

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main entarnce-churc of the holy sepulchre

   Sitting in Old Jerusalem is one of the most important sites for the Christian church, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Church marks the spots of the traditional site of several of the last events in Jesus’ earthly life and the traditional location of the empty tomb from which Jesus walked after rising from the dead. These remarkable events in the life of Christ have incredible significance to the Christian church as these mark the locations where the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God, was made on the cross of Calvary and where the victory over death and the grave was accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus. Through these events, the death of Christ and His resurrection, the forgiveness of sin and the victory of life eternal was one for every believer who places his or her faith in Jesus Christ. For a Christian, it is impossible to overstate the magnitude of what was accomplished on the sites that are held with in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

   The Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher sits at the end of a plaza area, or parvis. Access to this plaza is gained by passing through narrow streets of Old Jerusalem. The Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus traveled on His way to His crucifixion end on these narrow streets that lead to the impressive Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

   The parvis is lined by several small structures that have been added on through the years. Some of these include sites such as the Greek Orthodox oratory and chapel, a small monastery for Greek Orthodox monks and other small chapels. On the east wall (to your right when facing the entrance), a domed structure sits which the 12th-century Crusaders used as an entrance to the Church on Calvary. That part of the building later became the Chapel of the Franks. One of the few remaining Crusaders tombs not removed from the church by the Muslims during their recapture of Jerusalem in the 12th century is also in the plaza. Philippe D’Aubigny, a knight, tutor, and royal councilor to King Henry III of England, is buried there. The tomb is now marked with a stone marker which was placed there in 1925.

   The Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has visitors go through the Crusaders’ façade. This part of the structure was built by the Crusaders sometime before 1180. As a visitor faces this façade, two large arcades dominate the view. The only entrance from the plaza to the Church is through a door under the left archway. The right archway was bricked up after 1187 by the Muslims that gained control of the site following their defeat of the Crusaders.

   For a long time, just inside the main door was a high bench where the doorkeeper, who was Muslim, sat.  Though the Muslims had long since lost control of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a Muslim kept the keys because of the constant feuding between the Christian sects that wanted to control the Church.

  Through this plaza and through the single door on the left, visitors will embark on an impressive and moving experience as they see, remember, and reflect on the impact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2

Stone of Anointing ( stone of Unction )

ston of Anointing/stone of uncation church of the holy sepulchre

   Inside the Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and past the bench where the Muslim keeper of the keys sat for so long is the Stone of Anointing, which is also called the Stone of Unction. This stone marks the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial after He was taken down from the cross.

 Description

  The Stone of Anointing is a flat stone slab that contains a reddish hue throughout its texture. The stone sits about a half meter (foot and a half) off the floor and is surrounded by a stone encasement with decorative orbs sitting atop each corner. The top of the stone is exposed and visitors can touch or kneel at the stone and reflect on the dead body of Jesus laying on the stone and being prepared for His burial. Above the Stone of Anointing hangs eight lamps that span the total length of the stone. Tall candlesticks stand on each end of the stone.

 

Biblical Account 

  After Jesus died on the cross on Calvary, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, went to Pilate to request permission to take charge of Jesus’ body. According to the Gospel of John, Nicodemus, the Pharisee who went to Jesus in the cover of night to ask Jesus questions, went with Joseph of Arimathea. They received permission to take possession of the body of Jesus so that they could prepare Him for burial. Because it was late in the day on the Day of Preparation and because none of the work of tending to a dead body could be done on the Sabbath, Joseph and Nicodemus quickly wrapped Jesus’ body in strips of linen and anointed the body with myrrh and aloe, spices used in the burial process. The men carried Jesus’ body to Joseph’s own tomb and placed Him there. The Stone of Anointing marks the place where Jesus’ body was prepared by the two men for the rushed burial. The plan was for them and others to return after the Sabbath and finish the preparation. (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-42.)

 

History 

   The history of the Stone of Anointing was placed in its current position after the fire of 1808 destroyed much of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The rebuilding over the next couple of years brought the limestone slab to the place where it now rests. The Stone of Anointing is officially owned by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Orthodox Churches.

 

Significance 

  The Stone of Anointing marks an important part of the narrative of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The fact that Jesus’ body needed to be prepared for burial shows that Jesus did in fact physically die. Some have maintained that Jesus merely fainted, or swooned, and never stopped breathing and His heart never stopped beating. Of course, if Jesus merely fainted, His body would have no need for the preparation process for burial. He would have needed medical attention. But, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared His body for burial because Jesus, in fact, died on the cross.

3

Greek Mosaic

    Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the wall past the Stone of Anointing (Stone of Unction) hangs a large Greek mosaic that depicts the events of Jesus after His death on the cross up through His burial.

 

Description 

  Spanning the breadth of the wall that overlooks the Stone of Anointing, the Greek mosaic is an artistic rendering of what the process that the body of Jesus Christ went through after His death. The mosaic depicts three scenes though the mosaic itself is one large piece.

 

Scene One

On the far right of the mosaic, the three crosses of Calvary are shown with the body of Jesus being removed from the center cross. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are present as are Jesus’ mother, Mary, and the other ladies that were present at the crucifixion of Christ. One of the men is atop a ladder that is being used to climb the cross and remove Jesus’ body. Mary is embracing her Son while one of the other ladies holds Jesus’ hand. The other ladies are looking on. The scene itself portrays the anguish and turmoil that those who loved Jesus experienced through His crucifixion and death. This event was earth shattering for these followers of Jesus. He was the Promised One. He was the Messiah. And, now He was dead. They were distraught from the hope that they had in Jesus that now seems to be crushed. These followers are gently handling the body of the Lord.

 

Scene Two

In the middle of the mosaic, the body of Jesus is laying on the Stone of Anointing that has been draped in a cloth that will be the burial cloth that wraps the body of Jesus after the preparation has been completed. Mary, the mother of Jesus, cradles Jesus’ head in this scene while the other ladies look on in grief. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are located at the foot of the preparation stone. Three angels fly overhead offering their help and support. The background has several trees depicted among the rocky terrain of the area. Two bottles that would be holding the spices sit on the ground beside the Stone of Anointing.

           

Scene Three

On the far left of the mosaic, the two men, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, are carrying the body of Jesus to the tomb. The ladies are walking beside them and continue to touch and care for Jesus’ body. The body is now wrapped in the grave clothes in such a way that from the shoulders down, Jesus’ body is covered in the linens. His head is uncovered and is being held by His mother, Mary. The procession has just reached the tomb so that Jesus is taken into the tomb head first. Again, angels are flying above the scene in what would the upper left-hand corner of the mosaic.

 

 The entire mosaic is bordered by a large, prominent frame. Seven lamps with rose colored glass fixtures hang from the arches that sweep over the mosaic. The prominent color of the mosaic is a bright yellow as all three scenes have that yellow background for the sky. The mosaic hands about five feet (1.5 meters) off the ground.

 The mosaic is stunning in its beauty and its simplicity. Though detailed and large, the picture itself is impressively unassuming. Some of the most amazing events in history, Jesus’ death and burial, are captured in a meaningful and reflective manner.

4

Station of the Holy Women

Church of the holy sepulchre-station of the women

 ​​  Inside the Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and past the bench where the Muslim keeper of the keys sat for so long is the Stone of Anointing, which is also called the Stone of Unction. This stone marks the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial after it was taken down from the cross. With the Greek mosaic hanging behind the Stone of Anointing, turning left and moving toward the rotunda, a visitor would come to the Station of the Holy Women.

 

Description 

   The Station of the Holy Women is covered by a four-pillared structure with marble arches holding a marble rooftop. A hexagon rises above the pillars to a point, thereby forming the roof of the structure. The Station of the Holy Women itself is a round stone that marks the spot where Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the other women stood to watch as Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary. Directly in the center of the round stone sits a golden vase holding a lamp. Just outside of the structure stands an iron basin that holds another candle. 

 

Biblical Account

   As Jesus was nailed to the cross then hoisted up so that the cross stood vertically, the book of John reports that Jesus’ mother, Mary, her sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene stood by and observed the horrific experience. Mary watched as her Son experienced the harsh, cruel death of crucifixion (John 19:29). The other ladies were moved as well for Mary’s sorrow and for their own because they, too, were followers of Jesus. It is from this spot that Mary received the comforting words of Jesus as He instructed John, the disciple that He loved, to care for Mary, Jesus’ mother, as if she were His own mother (John 19:26-27). Amid the physical and spiritual anguish of the cross, Jesus showed incredible love and compassion to His mother by ensuring that she would be cared for after He was gone. From this spot, the ladies could witness Jesus dying, being removed from the cross and His preparation for burial. With heavy hearts, the ladies experienced the sorrow that Mary was promised would come as early as Jesus’ birth. Upon taken Jesus to the temple to be circumcised, Simeon, moved by the Spirit, recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Though he spoke lofty words about all that Jesus would accomplish as the Christ, he also warned Mary that a sword would pierce her soul too (Luke 2:35). As Mary stood on this site, that prophecy came true as she watched her firstborn Son being nailed to a cross.

 

Significance 

  This spot is significant as the biblical narrative reports those who were present at the crucifixion of the Lord. These events are so important in the life and faith of followers of Christ. To see the places where these early followers of Jesus stood while Jesus was dying on the cross for our sins brings the monumental events to life for the pilgrims who enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  

5

Edicule

   Inside the Main Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and past Stone of Anointing to the left beyond the Station of the Holy Women is the Edicule. This is a free-standing structure that sits under the towering rotunda that houses the tomb where the body of Jesus was laid after the crucifixion and from which Jesus walked after His resurrection.

 

Description 

  The Edicule itself is an ornate structure that covers the actual tomb of Christ. The front façade has arches, columns, carved adornments and a single wooden door. Its roof is flat with an onion-shaped dome that sits atop a set of columns. The exterior walls of the Edicule are supported by steel girders to ensure its stability. These girders were added after an earthquake caused structural damage.

  Inside the Edicule, a small passageway leads to the Chapel of the Angel which houses a piece of the rock that sealed the tomb of Jesus after He was buried. This is followed by the tomb itself which is a narrow burial chamber with a stone Flat slab that had been hewn from the rock where the body of Jesus was laid. For several centuries, a marble overlay has been atop the actual slab to protect the stone on which Jesus was laid to protect the stone from those who chisel out a piece for a souvenir.

  At the rear of the Edicule is the Coptic Chapel which is a chapel that has been standing since 1573 and where services are performed inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 

Biblical Account 

  The Gospels are clear that Jesus was crucified and then buried in a nearby tomb until His resurrection. It was prophesied that Jesus would be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9). Joseph of Arimathea used his own tomb in which to lay Jesus’ body. According to Matthew 27, the tomb was a new, unused tomb that was carved out of the rock. And, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance way. This is where Jesus remained until He was brought back from the dead. (See Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19.)

 

History 

  The present day Edicule was built to replace the previous structure after the fire of 1808 by the Greek Orthodox Church. The previous structure had been built by the Franciscans in the 16th century. Damage from an earthquake and the effects of time have deteriorated the building significantly to the point where a major renovation is necessary. To stabilize the Edicule, unsightly steel beams have been put in place.

 

Significance

  The Edicule houses the place where the most significant event in Christianity and in fact in all of history occurred, the resurrection of Jesus. Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, men and women, boys and girls can have their sins forgiven and walk in a personal relationship with God the Father by being reconciled by what Jesus accomplished as the perfect sacrifice. The resurrection secured the victory over death and hell. Without the empty tomb, humanity would be stuck in the chains of sin and the punishment for those sins. But, because the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive, we, too, can live.

6

Rotunda

church of the holy sepulchre, rotunda church of the holy sepulchre

    The most prominent external architectural features of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two gray domes that sit atop the church. The larger of the domes marks the place of the Rotunda. Underneath the center of the rotunda is The Edicule which houses the empty tomb where Jesus was laid after His crucifixion.

 

Description 

   The Rotunda, also known as Anastasis which is Greek for “resurrection,” is the large dome that gives shelter to the most important site in all of Christianity, the empty tomb. The Rotunda is supported by four levels of arches and columns that support the impressive interior of the dome. The interior ceiling of the dome itself has twelve golden adornments that flow out of the center of the dome. A sun-like feature surrounds the central hole in The Rotunda which is a window that lets in natural light. While the sun is shining outside, a shaft of sunlight is thrown onto the floor on The Rotunda and directly on The Edicule during certain times of the day. Massive lamps hang down throughout The Rotunda area as well. Along with the Edicule, the Rotunda houses the Coptic Chapel, which is on the back side of the Edicule, the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, and the Jewish tomb.

 

History 

   The present-day Rotunda shows the original theme of the architecture being a Roman-Byzantine structure. Over the centuries, the Rotunda itself has been restored in such a way that what once were windows have lost their direct sunlight. Plus, a mezzanine has divided the circular walkway into two separate levels. During the last restoration, twelve columns that make up the lower level supports were returned to their original form.

 

Significance 

   The Rotunda is a large, roomy space that leaves room to walk around the Edicule. During special occasions and important days of worship, the rotunda is filled with those worshipping God for what occurred at the now empty tomb.

   Through the centuries, Christians have held this special place in high regards. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, especially the Rotunda area and the Edicule housing the empty tomb of Jesus, have allowed believers to reflect on the significance of the resurrection, worship God because of the victory He has provided, and remember the lengths that God would go to have a reconciled relationship with His greatest creation, humanity. Those who love and follow Jesus regard this place as a holy and sacred place to experience incredible times of worship and adoration of God and His Son, Jesus.

   However, just as precious as this place is to Christians, others have found these holy sites to be offensive and damaging to what they believe. So, many times throughout history these holy places have been destroyed by unbelievers, especially Muslims. The religious battles that have been waged to protect or win back these sites have brought much destruction to Jerusalem in general and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher specifically. From the Crusades to wars fought in order to gain possession of these holy sites, many have given much to give Christians the opportunity to visit and worship at the empty tomb.

7

Kathlikon

church of the holy sepulchre,  churce of holy sepulchre kathlikon

   The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has split ownership. Different parts of the church are controlled by different facets of the Christian faith. The primary denominations in control are the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox. Other believers have the right to use certain parts of the church as well including the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox churches.

 

Description 

   The Katholikon is the central place of worship for the Greek Orthodox Church within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Surrounded by several smaller chapels that mark important moments in the journey of Jesus to the cross, the Katholikon itself sits in the center section of the Church, just in front of the opening of the Edicule which houses the empty tomb of Jesus.

   The smaller gray dome that is visible when looking at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from afar provides the ceiling for the Katholikon. The dome itself has a beautiful mosaic of Jesus which is prominently visible as a visitor looks up from the floor of the Katholikon. This portrait is surrounded by eight windows resting under the arches that are between the columns that hold up the structure of that smaller dome. These windows let in beams of sunlight during different parts of the day that shine into the stunning place of worship. The rest of the ceiling has vaulted sections that arch upward to join together in a striking display of architectural wonder.

   A large and impressive chandelier hangs over the worship area. The back section of the Katholikon has the Iconostasis which is a screen which provides a divider in the Katholikon. Just behind the arches and columns of the Iconostasis are the Greek Orthodox icons. Two thrones sit on either side of the Iconostasis and are reserved for the Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem. Toward the front of the Katholikon is the Omphalos which is held to be the center of the world.

 

History 

   The Katholikon section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is made up of much of the church that was built by the Crusaders after they had recaptured the site from the Muslim invaders. This Crusader Chapel has been rebuilt and restored through the years because of the damage of time, fire, earthquakes and other natural and man-made disasters.

           

Significance 

   For the Greek Orthodox Church, the most spectacular and meaningful ceremony takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Easter Sunday. Thousands of faithful Greek Orthodox worshipers watch and wait for the emergence of the Greek Patriarch from the Edicule where the empty tomb of Jesus is. After spending time in prayer, the Greek Patriarch exits the Edicule with two bundles of candles that are lit. Then, the Holy Fire that is coming out of the empty tomb of Jesus is distributed to all who are present as the light is spread around the congregation and then symbolically around the world.

   Especially to the Greek Orthodox Church, the Katholikon marks a significant location of worship and connection to God. But, for all believers in Jesus, this part of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is remarkable and moving.

8

Iconostasis

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre iconostis

    Facing the Edicule where the tomb of Jesus is housed, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre a place of worship for the Greek Orthodox Church in the middle of the church structure. The back wall of the place of worship is divided from the other chapels with a prominent feature called the Iconostasis. This type of construction is common in the Greek Orthodox Church. Officially, the iconostasis in a Greek Orthodox Church is a large, solid screen of icons which is a prominent feature on which icons are placed to be worshiped by those in attendance. The generic iconostasis would have saints and other icons represented in various displays of art.

 

Description 

    The incredible Iconostasis provides a barrier between the worship center and the chapels that sit beyond the rear of the Katholikon. The wall-like structure is made of marble that has the red coloring running through it. Eight columns rise to support the seven arches that span the width of the Katholikon. At the top of the arches is a small balcony area that overlooks the Katholikon area from above. The openings created by the arches and columns are home to four different gold plated images depicting saints of the church. The outer arches have openings that allow passage to the other side of the screen. The center arch is over the prominent doorway that has a red tapestry hanging just inside the entrance to block the view for those in the Katholikon to the room that is just beyond the Iconostasis. That tapestry is ornate with a green-framed image. Above the doorway hangs a small chandelier. A large chandelier hangs a little further into the Katholikon but is still toward the back of the area near the Iconostasis. Four rounded steps lead up to landing just outside of the main doorway. A large image representing the shining sun is directly above that main tapestry covered entrance. Sitting near the Iconostasis are the two large thrones that are reserved for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem. Looking above the Iconostasis, the visitor is able to see the vaulted ceilings of the area behind the Katholikon and the windows that allow natural light to enter and provide a warm glow from the sun during the day.

 

History 

   The present Iconostasis that forms the back wall of the Katholikon in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has stood since the fire in 1808 destroyed so much of the church. The current Iconostasis is a Baroque style and was created by the architect Tzelepis Komnenos.

           

Significance 

    For the Greek Orthodox Church, the question arises, do they worship icons. Their emphatic answer is “no.” They maintain that Christians do not worship an image but they worship God. Though they do not worship icons, that do venerate them which means that they regard them with great respect and awe. With that in mind, the Iconostasis of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre provides a moving and awe-inspiring place for the Greek Orthodox Church to show that respect and reverence for the icons that they hold in such high esteem.

 

The Iconostasis is a beautiful, meaningful structure that draws the visitor to be moved to worship.

9

Omphalos

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre omphlos

   At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, when walking from the Edicule where the empty tomb of Jesus is housed and moving into the Katholikon, the Greek Orthodox Church worship area, one of the first features a visitor will notice is the Omphalos.

    The Greek word, Omphalos, would be translated “naval.” Thus, generally, an omphalos is a stone that has religious significance as marking the center of the world. In Christian medieval tradition, the middle of the world was found where God interacted with His people. The Old Testament interaction would have been through the Ark of the Covenant which resided in Jerusalem at the temple in the Holy of Holies. But, in the New Testament, God’s interaction with His people was most readily witnessed through the perfect sacrifice, Jesus the Messiah, being crucified, buried, and resurrected.

            In the Katholikon, the Omphalos marks the significance of God’s world centering around His work through Christ.

 

Description 

   The Omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a big bowl-like, free standing marble structure that resembles a large goblet. Its color is a dark beige or khaki in its bowl and at the rim of its lip with the sides vertical sides of the bowl part of the piece being having a faded-white look that has been aged through time. The outside of the vessel has textured leaves and flowers providing depth to the piece. The lip of the bowl and the interior sides of the bowl are sculptured to appear like an opening flower with petals. The inside of the bowl has a round part that is carved to look like the inside of the flower. This round portion is dissected by 2 diameters that divide the round part into fourths. In the direct center is a disc.

   Right next to the Omphalos within the Katholikon in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a box that is there to receive offerings and monetary gifts. Undoubtedly, pilgrims and visitors were placing change or money in the Omphalos itself. The box, which is chained to the base of the Omphalos, allows people to give without hurting the artwork and beauty of the Omphalos.

 

Significance

   The medieval Christian belief that the center of the world would be located here stems from the mindset that the most significant events in history occurred here and it makes sense that God would have those events occur in the most central location of the world. It can be truthfully stated that this is the center of the Christian spiritual world. Without the death of Christ on Golgotha, located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, the Stone of Anointing or Unction Stone which is located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the empty tomb from which Jesus emerged after being raised back from the dead, which is also located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian faith would not exist. This is indeed the spiritual center of Christianity. So, the Omphalos definitely marks the center of Christendom.

10

Coptic Chapel

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre coptic chapel

   Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Rotunda area, the Edicule holds the empty tomb of Jesus. On the opposite side of the entrance to the empty tomb, by way of another entrance, visitors can see the Coptic Chapel. The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the minor church communities that have access to use certain areas within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

    “Coptic” means “Egyptian” so Christians that have a tie to Egypt or to the church that originated in Alexandria, Egypt would refer to themselves as Coptic Christians. The Coptic Chapel is the part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the Coptic monks can perform their religious rites and ceremonies.

 

Description 

   The Coptic Chapel is a tiny chapel that is connected to the far side of the Edicule. The structure itself has wrought iron walls that connect marble columns. The walls have curtains or tapestry that partition off the chapel. Just inside the entrance on the right is a receptacle to hold the lit candles used in worship. The chapel can hold no more than two or three people. The altar stands on the far wall across from the entrance. Above the altar hangs a picture of Mary holding the baby Jesus. The other walls are lined with different murals depicting events in Jesus’ life. Under the altar, an exposed piece of stone is present. This stone is part of the rock that encased the tomb where Jesus was buried and from which He walked after His resurrection. Interestingly, since the actual stone in the tomb is covered by marble, this exposed stone is the part of the tomb that can actually be touched.

 

Significance 

    As a church, the Coptic Orthodox Church started in the city of Alexandria, Egypt. The Coptic Church proclaim that John Mark, who authored the Gospel of Mark and traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, founded the church and served as the first Coptic bishop between AD 42 – 62. During the Apostolic period, the church in the city of Alexandria was a successful, growing, faithful church to the cause of Christ.

   Yet, the Coptic Church was involved in the first major split of Christendom, even before there was the Roman Catholic Church or the eastern and western Christianity split. At the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, the church of Alexandria split from the rest of the church over the issue of whether Jesus was born with two natures or came from two natures. Since they could not come to an agreement, the church split with the Coptic Church being that part of the church that grew from the Egyptian line of Christians.

    Under the rule of the Roman Empire, the Coptic Christians faced severe persecution and death because they worshiped Christ alone and would not worship the Roman emperors. But by AD 641, Egypt was liberated from the Roman Empire by the Arab conquest. That which started as newfound freedom for the Coptic Christians was soon replaced with the trials of being ruled by Muslims. Over time and through the centuries, most Coptic Christians converted to Islam and the Christian presence in Egypt has dwindled greatly. Worldwide, the Coptic Church has between 10 million and 60 million members. Their beliefs are similar to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology.

11

Chapel of Joseph of Arimatea

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre chapel of joseph of arimatea

     In the Rotunda section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, across from the Coptic Chapel which stands on the backside of the Edicule where the empty tomb is housed, the Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea can be found. The chapel is credited to the Syrians though the disagreement with the Armenians over the true ownership has been a source of struggle.

           

Description 

    The Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea, also called the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus, and the Syrian Chapel, is an underwhelming chapel that has fallen into disrepair. The entrance to the chapel is between two of the columns of the Rotunda. The rock and stone walls are bare and showing the battle against time. Against the far stone wall stands an altar that is aged and unimpressive. Above the altar hang three lamps and a single lightbulb. On the right wall is an old door. Off to the right of the altar when facing it is the entrance to the Jewish tombs that have been discovered. Tradition says that both Joseph or Arimathea and Nicodemus were buried in those tombs. When the Syrians hold a service in the chapel the walls are adorned and the aged chapel takes on a whole new look.

 

Significance 

    The Syrian Orthodox Church is made up of Syriac-speaking Christians that are spread throughout the Middle East. Their services use the Syriac language which is a language that is closely related to Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus. As early as the sixth century, proof exists that a Syrian bishop was already present in Jerusalem, alongside the Byzantine Patriarch. The official seat of the Syrian Bishop resides at the Church of St. Mark which sits between the Hebrew and Armenian quarters. Ancient tradition has the location as being the house of John Mark’s mother, Mary.

   The Syrian Orthodox Church, also called the Syriac Orthodox Church, traces its history back to the first Christian church planted outside of Jerusalem, the church at Antioch. Through the years, the church has been the victim of incredible persecution and displacement because of the geopolitical difficulties in the various places it has been headquartered. Currently, the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church is settled in Damascus, Syria. Because of the extreme difficulties through the years, the fact that the church has survived has been labeled a miracle by historians.

    The current Syrian Orthodox Church is active and a crucial player in ecumenical discussions as it has been on the World Council of Churches since 1960. Currently, the church has about 5 million members and is known for its missionary endeavors, especially in Guatemala and Brazil. The majority of the members have their origins in India and are connected to the church through conversion rather than through ethnicity. Most ethnic members of the Syrian Orthodox Church are from present day Turkey, Syria, or Iraq.

    The practice of the Syrian Orthodox Church calls to a devotion to prayer and service. The clergy within the church and some devout laity follow a regimen of praying ritualistically seven times a day.

12

Jewish Tomb

church of the holy sepulchre, holy sepulchre jewish tomb

   In the Syrian Chapel, also called the Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a low, narrow passageway is cut into the side of the wall that leads to two complete 1st Century tombs that tradition holds are the tombs of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

           

Description 

   The entrance to the two tombs is a hole in the Syrian Chapel that visitors must bend over to make their way through. Down the short corridor cut into the rock is a room that has two complete tombs protruding off the antechamber. Each tomb is hewn into the massive rock in the shape of an arch. Each tomb is deep enough to lay a body and they are side by side. The handiwork necessary to complete the tombs is amazing and the time and craftsmanship needed to finish with these usable burial places are impressive.  

 

Significance 

   The fact that two first century Jewish tombs sit right outside the Syrian Chapel is significant for two reasons. First, tradition holds that Joseph of Arimathea was buried in one of the tombs and Nicodemus was buried in the other tomb. Part of this tradition comes from the fact that according to Scripture, Joseph of Arimathea used his own tomb to place the body of Jesus. Though Jesus only used the tomb a short while, tradition says that Joseph refused to be buried in the same place that Jesus had been buried. Thus, he needed a different tomb when he did. This, according to tradition, is that tomb.

    Another important fact about this being a first-century Jewish tomb, regardless of if it is Joseph’s actual tomb or not, is that it shows that this area was used for burying Jewish people. The significance about that is the Jews would only bury people outside of the walls of the city. Because contact with a deceased body made someone unclean, the community only buried their dead outside of the city walls. The difficulty comes in the fact that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher actually sits inside of the walls of Jerusalem. But, how can this be if the Jews would only bury someone outside of the walls? Can this actually be the burial site of Jesus if it is inside the walls?

    These two Jewish tombs confirm what archeologists have discovered. Where the church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands was outside of the city walls in the first century. Sometime during the AD 40’s, Herod Agrippa extended the walls of the city to the north which placed the current position of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre inside the walls whereas it had been outside of the walls before the expansion. Since this is where Jesus’ tomb is located, this fact supports that Jesus was crucified and buried outside of the city walls, though the current location is inside the walls of Jerusalem.

   The Jewish tombs just off from the Syrian Chapel give further confirmation that the Jews used this site as a burial ground and that the Gospel accounts are true.

13

Altar of St.Mary Magdalene

church of holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre altar of st.mary magdalene

   Just off the north side of the Rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene. This marks the place where Mary Magdalene met the resurrected Jesus and conversed with Him. The Chapel is a Franciscan Chapel.

           

Description 

  The two main noticeable aspects of the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene are the floor designs and the altar with its surrounding artwork. The floor of the Chapel is black and white with geometric shapes. Two prominent parts of the design are placed strategically to mark the spots where Mary Magdalene stood and where Jesus stood when the two met on that first Easter morning. Where Mary Magdalene stood is denoted by three concentric circles. A short distance away, the place where Jesus stood is designated by a green circle with sunbursts coming from the green circle symmetrically, all of which sits in three concentric circles. The rest of the flooring is highlighted by various size rectangles.

   The actual altar in the chapel has one large candlestick on each end of the relatively small altar. Hanging directly above the altar is a modern art depiction of the encounter that Jesus had with Mary Magdalene. The altar sits between two large stone arches that lead to two corridors. Two simple benches are placed near the altar to provide seating for worshippers.

 

Biblical Account 

    The encounter that Jesus had with Mary Magdalene after His resurrection is a marvelous account of her devotion and his power and love. The Gospel of John recounts that Mary Magdalene arrived early at the tomb to care for the body of her Lord. Her unwavering devotion to Jesus is very evident. Finding the tomb empty, she wept. She ran to get Peter and John and the three raced back to the tomb. Puzzled by the findings, Peter and John walked away, but Mary Magdalene stayed put in the garden and continued to weep. Two angels appeared and ask why she is so troubled. She replied that her Lord had been taken away, and she did not know where He had been taken. As she turned away from the angels, she saw someone else who she assumed to be the gardener. After being asked again about her weeping, she begged the person to tell her where they had taken Jesus’ body. Jesus simply responded: “Mary.” She recognized her Lord stating her name. She fell at His feet, though He informed her that she could not touch Him because He had not yet gone to the Father. He instructed her to return to the disciples to tell them that He was alive. She ran to spread the news and became the first messenger of the resurrection.

 

Significance 

    This chapel marks the amazing events that occurred that first resurrection morning. From the flooring reminding visitors of the location of where each stood to the altar and artwork, those who come to reflect and worship are given the opportunity to remember the amazement of a woman follower of Jesus at seeing the resurrected Christ.

14

Chapel of the Appartion

church of the holy sepulchre, church of th holy sepulchre chaple of the appartion

   Just off the north side of the Rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre past the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene is the Chapel of the Apparition. This marks the event where Jesus appeared to Mary, His mother, after His resurrection. The Chapel is a Franciscan Chapel and is reserved only for Roman Catholic use.

           

Description 

   Compared to some of the other chapels, this chapel is in a larger room. A set of double bronze doors leads from the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene to the Chapel of the Apparition. These doors were donated in 1982 by the people of Australia. The room has a wonderful beauty in its simplicity. Leading up to the altar are three sections of humble, unpretentious benches for worshippers to utilize. Behind the altar, on the left of the high arched inset is a bronze relief of the encounter between the resurrected Christ and His mother. On the right side facing the altar is the Column of the Flagellation, which is a piece of the column that Jesus was tied to while He was being scourged by the Romans in preparation for His crucifixion. It is a red porphyry stone column. Along the left wall when facing the altar, a modern depiction of the stations of the cross run the length of the chapel wall. Light sconces are high on the walls and are placed along the wall.

 

History

  This chapel is called the Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus to His Mother but is also known as the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The chapel has been in existence since the 11th Century when Constantine Monomachus restored the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The modern renovation was last done by the Franciscans in the 1980s. A set of bronze statues that sit on a long mantle and express the Stations of the Cross spans the length of the chapel was sculpted by Father Andrea Martini. The Column of Flagellation had been venerated by the members of the Catholic Church for centuries when it was in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Father Custos Boniface of Ragusa brought it to this chapel in 1553

 

Significance          

  This chapel is significant for three reasons. First, it reminds Catholic church members of the encounter that the Jesus had with His mother after the resurrection to help ease her hurt and pain from seeing her Son, Jesus, crucified in such a physically horrible scene. Second, the chapel has some great artwork and other pieces to give the worshipper the opportunity to reflect on the journey that Jesus took to the cross. The Column of Flagellation reminds the worshippers of the incredibly difficult physical agony that Jesus endured. Being beaten and then crucified was an agonizing ordeal, not to mention the spiritual weight of what Jesus was carrying. Then, the stations of the cross depiction allow the worshipper to visualize step by step the way that Jesus had to go to bear the sins of the world. Finally, this Chapel of the Apparition is reserved only for the Catholic Church to hold services. This chapel is a beautiful place to remember and worship.

15

Arches of the Virgin

  When touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a visitor can pass through the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene and will come upon the Arches of the Virgin. These arches commemorate Mary, the mother of Jesus visiting the tomb where Jesus had been placed after His crucifixion but before His resurrection.

           

Description 

  The corridor is rather dark and runs along the northern wall of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The floor is a patchwork of stones, some of which have been cracked through the years. The walls come out of the stone floor to lofty heights down the hallway. The hall is split into two sections by a row of columns down the center of the hall. Each column supports an arch that spans the distance between the two columns that are holding it up. Interestingly, from this vantage point, different times of construction and renovation is noticeable as the different building styles collide to create a beautiful yet nonuniform journey for the visitor to the church. A smaller set of columns stands next to the larger obviously later built columns. From the back wall, which dates to the original complex built by Constantine, parts of the structure built during the Crusader era are obvious. Yet, five smaller columns are quite noticeable. Almost like they are out of place in the midst of the other columns and arches. They are conspicuously smaller in height and girth. They have a rougher exterior. These five arches make up what is referred to as the Arches of the Virgin.

 

Significance           

  hese arches mark the care and concern that the Mary, the mother of Jesus, had for her Son, even after His crucifixion. With the Arches of the Virgin and the nearby Chapel of the Apparition, a student of the Bible has to consider the concept of Jesus’ mother, Mary, or Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the resurrected Christ. Scripture seems to imply that Mary Magdalene in Mark 16:9: Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils (KJV). Yet, some Bible scholars believe that the translation can also be understood that Mark was simply given an order of Mary Magdalene’s events, not an order of appearances by Jesus. In other words, Mark could be saying that Mary Magdalene saw Jesus first then went running to tell the other disciples. If that is the case, then it could be possible that Jesus appeared to His mother, Mary, before He appeared to anyone else.

  pope John Paul II believed that Jesus did appear to His mother, Mary, first. The Pope does not state this as an absolute, so Catholics are free to believe it or not, Pope John Paul II gives a reasonable explanation for how and when Jesus would have appeared to His mother first. The crux of the argument revolves around the fact that when Mary Magdalene reached the tomb, it was empty. Where was Jesus during that time? Further, where was Jesus’ mother, Mary? She had been so faithful to tend to her Son in life and even death. Why is she not here at the tomb as well? Could it be that Jesus was meeting with His mother, Mary, at this time while Mary Magdalene was trying to decipher the meaning of the tomb was empty. Pope John Paul II thought so.

Regardless, the Arches of the Virgin memorialize the fact that Mary was concerned about her Son and that she was present during the sacred events of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus.

16

prison of Christ

   When touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a visitor can pass through the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene and will come upon the Arches of the Virgin. Just past these arches is the Prison of Christ. This is the place where Jesus was imprisoned with the other two men who were set to be executed as they awaited the time for them to be crucified.

         

Description 

  The corridor past the Arches of the Virgin leads to another smaller arch that displays two freestanding columns. Just beyond this arch, the entrance to the Prison of Christ is visible. Prior to going through the entrance, a small room has some interesting components. Four lamps hang from the ceiling to provide a small amount of light. In the floor of this small room is a square mosaic image of a double-headed eagle. A crown hovers above the eagle figure with the entire encircle in a round decorative embellishment with a square detail enclosing the entire mosaic. The double-headed eagle is a symbol of the Byzantine empire and the Greek Orthodox Church.

  Also, found in this outer room, to the right when facing the door to the actual prison, is an altar with a glass encasement found under the altar. Behind the glass, two holes are on the floor. Tradition holds that these holes are the imprints of the feet of Jesus. Worshippers slip notes inside of the windows. To the left of the door, a small table sits. Two windows are on the walls of the prison, one above the altar with the foot imprints of Christ and the other behind the table on the left. The doorway is an arched doorway that has an iron gate acting as a door.

  hrough the door is the actual Chapel of the Prison of Christ. A small corridor that is made of stone leads to the plain altar. Arches on each side of the altar allow passage to two side rooms where other prisoners would have been held. Some of the walls that surround the prison date back to the first church walls from AD 330.

            

Significance           

  Two items of significance are important to notice. First, Jesus and the other two men who were crucified on that day at to be held somewhere while all of the preparations were made for the crucifixion event. There was a holding cell or a place that had to be guarded somewhere around in order to hold the prisoners.

  econd, one of the men who was executed that day chose to believe in Jesus and recognized that though that prisoner was receiving justice for his crimes, Jesus had done nothing wrong and did not deserve the punishment of dying on the cross. It is conceivable that this prisoner talked with Jesus prior to the crucifixion event and the process of believing for him started before they walked to Golgotha where they were hung on their crosses.

  The Prison of Christ and the simple chapel that sits inside it highlights the opportunity to reflect on all that Jesus went through before being nailed to the cross.          

17

Chapel of st.Longinus

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre chapel of st.longinus

   When touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a visitor can pass through the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene and will come upon the Arches of the Virgin. Just past these arches is the Prison of Christ. This is the place where Jesus was imprisoned with the other two men who were set to be executed as they awaited the time for them to be crucified.

         

Description 

  The corridor past the Arches of the Virgin leads to another smaller arch that displays two freestanding columns. Just beyond this arch, the entrance to the Prison of Christ is visible. Prior to going through the entrance, a small room has some interesting components. Four lamps hang from the ceiling to provide a small amount of light. In the floor of this small room is a square mosaic image of a double-headed eagle. A crown hovers above the eagle figure with the entire encircle in a round decorative embellishment with a square detail enclosing the entire mosaic. The double-headed eagle is a symbol of the Byzantine empire and the Greek Orthodox Church.

  Also, found in this outer room, to the right when facing the door to the actual prison, is an altar with a glass encasement found under the altar. Behind the glass, two holes are on the floor. Tradition holds that these holes are the imprints of the feet of Jesus. Worshippers slip notes inside of the windows. To the left of the door, a small table sits. Two windows are on the walls of the prison, one above the altar with the foot imprints of Christ and the other behind the table on the left. The doorway is an arched doorway that has an iron gate acting as a door.

  hrough the door is the actual Chapel of the Prison of Christ. A small corridor that is made of stone leads to the plain altar. Arches on each side of the altar allow passage to two side rooms where other prisoners would have been held. Some of the walls that surround the prison date back to the first church walls from AD 330.

            

Significance           

  Two items of significance are important to notice. First, Jesus and the other two men who were crucified on that day at to be held somewhere while all of the preparations were made for the crucifixion event. There was a holding cell or a place that had to be guarded somewhere around in order to hold the prisoners.

  econd, one of the men who was executed that day chose to believe in Jesus and recognized that though that prisoner was receiving justice for his crimes, Jesus had done nothing wrong and did not deserve the punishment of dying on the cross. It is conceivable that this prisoner talked with Jesus prior to the crucifixion event and the process of believing for him started before they walked to Golgotha where they were hung on their crosses.

  The Prison of Christ and the simple chapel that sits inside it highlights the opportunity to reflect on all that Jesus went through before being nailed to the cross.          

18

Chapel of the Division of the Raiment

church of the holy sepulchre, church of holy sepulchre chapel of the division of the raiment

   Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a hallway from the Crusader era along the eastern side houses several small chapels that mark significant events on the crucifixion. These chapels include the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment which is an Armenian chapel. This chapel recalls that the soldiers drew lots, rather than tearing the cloth, to see who would keep the garments of Jesus Christ.

           

Description 

   Approaching the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment, a worshipper would notice that there are three steps leading up to the altar of the chapel. At the top of the steps is a short fence that is made of iron work and is a golden color. A single panel of the fence serves as a gate and can be opened to access the chapel. Five lamps hang down from the ceiling and land in front of the altar.

The most prominent feature of this chapel is the ornate and striking canopy that covers the altar. The altar itself is made of white marble and has a cross sitting upon it. Behind the cross is a large arched picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus surrounded by other figures. The canopy is made of a red-tinted marble with black veins running through it. The floor of the canopy, made of matching marble, is one step up from the floor of the chapel. Four columns hold the marble top that is arched to span from column to column. On top of the arches sits an octagonal shaped cupola that also is made of the same red and black marble. A roof sits on the cupola that joins at a point and has a sun-shaped sculpture sitting on the very top of the canopy. Extremely detailed, the canopy over the altar is an incredible sight to see. The back wall of the chapel is the stone wall that makes up the structure of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Three banners of tapestry stand around the back stone wall of the chapel that has pictures of Christ on them.

           

Significance           

   The Chapel of the Division of the Raiment signifies an important part of the crucifixion. Psalms 22:18 prophesied that the clothing of the Messiah would be divided up with those receiving the clothing casting lots to see who would get what piece of clothing. According to John 19:24, that is exactly what the soldiers crucifying Jesus did.

  The Armenian Orthodox Church which oversees this chapel claims its apostolic succession through Bartholomew and Thaddeus. First, Thaddeus cured Abgar V of Edessa of leprosy and Abgar was then converted. Then, Abgar sent Thaddeus throughout Armenia sharing the gospel and converting people to Christianity. Thaddeus converted the daughter of King Sanatruk to Christianity. However, later the daughter and Thaddeus were martyred by the king. Bartholomew then came to Armenia to continue the proclamation of the gospel to that part of the world. Bartholomew shared with and eventually converted the sister of King Sanatruk. Again, the king had his sister and Bartholomew executed. Both apostles had ordained bishops that were from Armenia before they died. This is the leadership that the Armenian Orthodox Church built on. This church is who cares for and leads the worship in the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment.

19

Chapel of St. Helena

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church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre chapel of st.helena

  Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a hallway from the Crusader era along the eastern side houses several small chapels that mark significant events on the crucifixion. Next to the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment is a set of stairs that descend to the much bigger Chapel of St. Helena. The chapel is controlled by the Armenian Orthodox Church. To the Armenian Church, the chapel is referred to as The Chapel of St. Gregory.

 

Biography 

   St. Helena was the mother of Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great. She was married to Roman Emperor Constantius by whom she had Constantine. Constantine was the first Roman emperor to become a Christian. Helena became a Christian as well as is credited with discovering the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. St. Helena died in present-day Turkey around AD 328.

           

Description

   Descending to the Chapel of St. Helena is a staircase with twenty-nine steps. On the walls of the staircase, medieval pilgrims carved crosses into the stone. When coming to the main level of the Chapel of St. Helena, two prominent features are evident. First, in the Armenian style, numerous lamps and a large chandelier are hanging from the ceiling. Second, a detailed mosaic adorns the floor leading up to the first altar that is seen. The mosaic depicts the most significant churches found in Armenia. The main altar is set apart from the rest of the chapel by an iron fence with an opening for passage to the main altar.

  Just to the north of the main altar is a smaller chapel that is dedicated to the thief that asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus gets to paradise. Jesus responds by promising that because of his repentance that thief will be with Jesus in paradise that very day. The chapel is a relatively simple altar with a marble canopy covering it nestled neatly into an alcove. An iron wrought fence with Crusader style crosses is in front of the altar area. The front columns are black and hold the arch that gives a line of sight into the altar. The back columns have a solid wall going between them. On this wall is a picture held in an ornate frame. The canopy ascends and holds a cupola which is topped by a cross. On the south wall of the Chapel of St. Helena is a big painting that depicts the discovery of the cross by Helena. A closed off section of the chapel that is opened only by permission of the Armenians is the Chapel of St. Vartan and the Armenian Martyrs. This chapel has a drawing of a sailing vessel with the inscription in Latin which reads “Lord, we will go.” Some believe this references going into the house of the Lord from Psalm 122.

           

Significance 

   The Chapel of St. Helena served as the crypt of Constantine’s basilica in the 4th century. This chapel is the oldest complete part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Also, the entrance to the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross is to the right of the main altar of the Chapel of St. Helena.

20

Chapel of the Finding of the Cross

church of the holy sepulchre, church of the holy sepulchre chpel of finding of the cross

   Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Chapel of St. Helena has a set of stairs descending to the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. This is where it is believed that St. Helena found the parts of the cross and the nails that was used to crucify Jesus.

 

Description

  To the right of the main altar in the Chapel of St. Helena is a set of stairs that goes down to the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. Once the 13 steps are navigated, the visitor steps into a room that has two noticeable demarcations. The left side of the room is maintained by the Roman Catholic Church. The right side of the room is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Roman Catholic side of the room has an altar built in front of a statue and set into an alcove, much like the other chapels in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The altar is a plane altar built of stone with a marble top. The only other part of the chapel is an impressive, light-sized statue of St. Helena holding on to the cross. The statue is made of a black stone and sits upon a pedestal that places the statue well above eye level. So, everyone must look up to marvel at the beautiful statue as Helena embraces the cross that she discovered. The statue was donated by Austral-Hungarian Prince Maximilian who later became the King of Mexico. The statue was originally placed in 1857 are was restored in 1965.

The Greek Orthodox side of the room does not have the finished look that the Roman Catholic side has. The walls are the tough stone look. On the Greek side, 12th-century frescoes sit behind glass enclosures. Also, included on the Greek side is the actual spot where it is believed St. Helena found the cross of Jesus. This section is a small part of the room that is  partitioned off by ironwork and sits just to the right of the Roman Catholic altar.

           

Significance

  The room that serves as the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross was originally part of the quarry that was used to retrieve the stone used throughout the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Though the Roman Catholic side has been finished with a more clean-cut look as the stonework is obviously completed by craftsmen, the Greek Orthodox side has maintained the quarry look with the rough walls where the rocks have been excavated.

  The Chapel of the Finding of the Cross is also the lowest point of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is three levels below Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. Interestingly, the room was once used as a cistern to store water. Holes cut into the ceiling were used for buckets to be lowered in order to draw water from the cistern.

  Since the cross of Jesus played such an instrumental role in the salvation of those who place their faith in Christ, it is understandable that people wanted to find the cross. The actual fragments of the cross that were found were eventually moved to Rome

21

Chapel of the Derision

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   Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Chapel of Derision is included on the hallway that also holds the Chapel of the Division of the Raiment and the Chapel of St. Longinus. The Chapel of Derision is a Greek Orthodox chapel.

 

Description

   Fashioned much like the Chapel of St. Longinus, this Greek Orthodox chapel has a short white wall that divides the chapel from the hallway. The doorway of the wall has two golden doors that open to allow entrance. The steps for the entrance to the chapel are red-tinted marble. The first marble step is a rounded step which leads to the second step which is the floor of the chapel. Four lamps with clear globes hang over the chapel while a single lamp with a red globe hangs directly over the altar.

  Two prominent features of the chapel are noticeable when approaching. The first is the altar of the chapel. It is a white marble altar that is simple and unadorned. Four pillars hold up the top table of the altar. Underneath the altar, encased in a glass enclosure is a fragment of a column that is believed to be the place where Jesus sat as they placed the crown of thorns on His head and beat it on with a stick.

  The second prominent feature of the Chapel of Derision is the artwork that hangs on the back wall of the chapel. Like the Chapel of St. Longinus, the artwork is comprised of three different paintings that show events that Jesus went through on His way to the cross. The emphasis in this chapel is the way that Jesus was mocked and ridiculed. Jesus took verbal abuse from the Jews, from the people, and from the Romans. So, while bearing the physical abuse of the beating and the cross, He was also mocked by the people and those in authority. The picture on the right shows Jesus during one of His trials where He is being mocked by the system and by those in authority. The accusations against Jesus had to be trumped up and even those lying about Him could not get their stories straight. But, the trials were all a sham because the Jewish authorities had already determined the outcome. They wanted Jesus crucified. The middle picture shows Jesus seated and the crown of thorns being placed on His head. The anger and the mocking of the crowd are very evident in this picture. Then, the final picture on the left is Jesus walking through a crowd that is jeering Him and yelling at Him. As in the Chapel of St. Longinus, the frame is as much a piece of art as the pictures as the impressive frame is exquisite.

           

Significance

  The Chapel of Derision reminds the worshipper of all that Jesus went through by being scorned and rejected by the very people He came to save. Rather than embracing the Messiah, the Jews and the Romans rejected Him.

  It is said that anyone who puts an ear to the altar in the Chapel of Derision will hear the sounds of laughter representing  those who laughed at Jesus.

22

Chapel of Adam

church of the holy sepulchre, holy sepulchre the chapel of adam

  Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Chapel of Adam sits directly under the rock of Golgotha. The Chapel is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church.

 

Description

  When approaching the Chapel of Adam, the visitor sees an unadorned chapel that sits back in an alcove. A short wall that has four posts with red marble between them. The marble is inlaid with a white square. The doorway is covered by a set of wooden doors that rise to meet at a point. An extremely simple altar has nothing on it. A single lamp hangs from the ceiling. nothing is on the walls except one unexpected feature. Cut into the back wall of the chapel is a window that is covered by glass. Through the glass can be seen a part of the rock that is known as Golgotha. Since this chapel sits directly under where Jesus was crucified, the rock that is exposed through the opening is the lower part of the same rock.

  ooking closely at the rock through the window, one can see that there is a significant crack in the rock. Tradition maintains that this fissure in the rock was caused by the earthquake that occurred when Jesus breathed His last on the cross.

 

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many (Matthew 27:50-53, KJV).

 

When Jesus died on the cross on the rock above this chapel, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom, an earthquake hit, and rocks were split. Looking through the window in the Chapel of Adam is believed to be one of those places where the rocks split.

 

Significance    

   The teaching of the church says that the placement of this Chapel of Adam is significant.  Tradition holds that this is where Adam was buried and the when the blood of Jesus was spilled on the cross, and when the rocks were split from the earthquake, that the blood of Jesus ran down to where Adam had been buried. This brought the salvation of God through the blood of Jesus to Adam and symbolically to all those who preceded Christ in the Old Testament. The separation from God that had come from Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden when they ate from the tree that God had instructed them not to eat from had the possibility now to be removed. With the forgiveness of sin, Adam could be reconciled back to the Father through the blood of Jesus. Through the cross, Jesus spanned the chasm of separation that was there because of sin and made it possible for the relationship between God and man to be restored.         

23

Greek Treasury

church of the holy sepulchre, holy sepulchre the kreek tresury

   Within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, just to the south of the Chapel of Adam sits the Greek Treasury. In this room, the Greek Orthodox Church keeps some of its most valuable relics, including the relic of the True Cross. Though the room is typically closed, entrance to the room is accessed through a door to the right when facing the Chapel of Adam.

 

Description 

    The Greek Treasury has some lavish cabinets located in the room to store those things that the church sees as valuable. But, the most elaborate thing in the room is where the Relic of the True Cross is kept. An incredibly intricate silver plated frame has the image of two monarchs reaching out and touching a gold cross that has an emblem of another cross laid on top of it. All of that is on a gold-colored background.  The frame is broad and impressive and rests at an angle. Above the frame is a silver-plated two-headed eagle, the emblem of the Byzantine Empire and the Greek Orthodox Church. Candle holders stick out from behind the eagle figure. Each head of the eagle is adorned with a crown and ribbons flow from behind the eagle heads. The ribbons rise to hold another central crown. The silver makes the entire piece stand out. A royal red cloth covers from the bottom of the frame down to the floor.

   The rest of the room is filled with the cabinets that are crafted from beautiful wood. Other artwork hangs on the walls. The floor is a red-tinted marble tile.

 

Significance 

   The Greek Orthodox Church seems to take pride in the fact that it has more control over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher than any of the other churches that have access to and control over different parts of the church. Further, the excitement over the Relic of the True Cross cannot be overstated. The Greek Church maintains that this is a legitimate piece of the actual cross on which Jesus died. If this is true, all of Christianity would appreciate the special nature that the relic has. Though most Christians do not need to see the actual cross since the relationship with Christ is based on faith in what Jesus has accomplished through His death on Calvary, His burial in a now empty tomb, and His resurrection as He conquered the power of death and the grave so that a sinful mankind can be reconciled back to the Father who created them. But, the faith that is required for salvation can be encouraged by things like touring and worshipping in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher because it allows for the reflection that draws a child of God closer to the Lord through a meaningful experience. So, it can be with the Relic of the True Cross. Believers can be encouraged in their faith as they contemplate the depth of the meaning found in the cross of Christ. The Greek Orthodox Church realizes the effect that can have on followers of Christ.

24

Immovable Ladder

Immovable Ladder church of the holy sepulchre, holy sepulchre

    One of the interesting facts about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the way that different factions of the church have agreed to get along as each of them maintain and oversee different parts of the church. The symbol of the agreement to get along is most clearly seen from a wooden ladder that stays positioned underneath an outer window that is visible from the plaza area of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

 

Description 

   In 1757, the Ottoman Turks imposed a decreed called the Status Quo. This decree mandates that the ownership of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as a whole is shared between the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church (also known as the Latin Church), and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Three other churches, the Coptic Church, the Syriac Church, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have rights to use certain areas of the church. The effect of the Status Quo decree is that no one church can choose to make changes to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher without the other five churches agreeing to the changes.

    Outside of the church and over the front door of the church, a wooden ladder sits on a ledge under one of the windows. It is said that the ladder was placed there when the Status Quo was issued so that no one church can move it without the others agreeing. Since the ladder itself is not controlled or maintained by any other six churches, no one knows who would be the group that would have to ask the others if it is permissible to move the ladder. Because all the churches guard their rights vigorously, it is unlikely that the ladder will be moved anytime soon.

    Overall, the wooden ladder serves as a reminder that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher belongs to all the churches rather than any one body of believers. And, by extension, it is fair to say that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and all that it represents belongs to Christianity whole rather than just one part of it.

    There are a few times that the wooden ladder has in fact been moved. In 1981, a month after the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, someone stole the ladder and it went missing for a short time. The Israeli police soon found, took possession of the ladder, and returned it to its rightful spot, though the perpetrators were never discovered. In 1997, the ladder went missing for several weeks. As the tensions rose between the churches, especially between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, the ladder was put back in place. Finally, in 2009 the ladder was moved from the right window over the entrance to the left window over the entrance. The thought is it was moved to clear away scaffolding that was needed to finish the renovations on the bell tower. Overall, the wooden ladder stays right where it is.

 

Significance

    The wooden ladder stands as a symbol that though the relationships between the churches may not be the strongest, for centuries, the churches have been able to peaceably reside in and maintain the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

25

Chapel of St.Mary of Egypt

church of the holy sepulchre, holy seulchre the chapel of st.mary of egypt

    Just outside the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the right when facing the front door of the church, is a set of stairs that ascend to the Chapel of the Franks. Just below that chapel, around to the side of the stairs, is the entrance to the Chapel of St. Mary of Egypt. This chapel is a Greek Orthodox chapel.

 

Description 

   The Chapel of St. Mary of Egypt is home to numerous pieces of artwork and religious expressions. Perhaps the most interesting piece is the actual icon of the Virgin Mary that changed the life of St. Mary of Egypt. That icon is metal and is in the shape of a rectangle but has rounded corners and rounded edges. The image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, faded drastically. The image of Mary is framed by a rope looking adornment. Various pieces of jewelry are hanging on the icon.

 

Significance           

   For the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Roman Catholic churches, St. Mary of Egypt is revered as the patron saint of penitents. Born somewhere in Egypt, Mary of Egypt lived a rough, sinful life. At the age of twelve, she ran away from her home to go to the city of Alexandria. Here, her life of excessive sin started. She worked as a prostitute but often would refuse money for her sexual acts because she enjoyed doing them so much. Thus, she mainly lived by begging and gave away the sexual favors for fun.

   At the age of seventeen, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Great Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Her reason for going on the trip was to provide more sexual favors for those who were traveling that way. She had no desire to worship or experience God on the journey. She earned the money she needed by selling her body and continued that while in Jerusalem.

    While in Jerusalem, she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the feast, but she was hindered from entering by an unseen force. She came to realize that because she was impure, she could not enter. Her heart was filled with remorse. She then noticed an icon of the Virgin Mary outside of the church. Convicted in her heart, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to give up the world and her desires that she had been living out. She attempted to enter the church again and was able to walk in. She worshiped and then returned to the icon to give thanks. A voice spoke to her telling her that if she crossed the Jordan, she would find a place of rest and peace. After receiving absolution and taking Holy Communion at the monastery of St. John the Baptist on the bank of the Jordan River, she crossed the Jordan to live the rest of her life as a hermit in penitence. She carried three loaves of bread with her. When the bread was gone, she lived on what she could find in the wilderness.

   The church remembers her life as one lived receiving the forgiveness of her sins then living in communion with God, giving up all the ways of the world.