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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.

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