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Iconostasis


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.

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