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Chapel of the 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

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