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.
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.
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.