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.