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Omphalos


At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, when walking from the Edicule where the empty tomb of Jesus is housed and moving into the Katholikon, the Greek Orthodox Church worship area, one of the first features a visitor will notice is the Omphalos.

The Greek word, Omphalos, would be translated “naval.” Thus, generally, an omphalos is a stone that has religious significance as marking the center of the world. In Christian medieval tradition, the middle of the world was found where God interacted with His people. The Old Testament interaction would have been through the Ark of the Covenant which resided in Jerusalem at the temple in the Holy of Holies. But, in the New Testament, God’s interaction with His people was most readily witnessed through the perfect sacrifice, Jesus the Messiah, being crucified, buried, and resurrected.

In the Katholikon, the Omphalos marks the significance of God’s world centering around His work through Christ.

Description

The Omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a big bowl-like, free standing marble structure that resembles a large goblet. Its color is a dark beige or khaki in its bowl and at the rim of its lip with the sides vertical sides of the bowl part of the piece being having a faded-white look that has been aged through time. The outside of the vessel has textured leaves and flowers providing depth to the piece. The lip of the bowl and the interior sides of the bowl are sculptured to appear like an opening flower with petals. The inside of the bowl has a round part that is carved to look like the inside of the flower. This round portion is dissected by 2 diameters that divide the round part into fourths. In the direct center is a disc.

Right next to the Omphalos within the Katholikon in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a box that is there to receive offerings and monetary gifts. Undoubtedly, pilgrims and visitors were placing change or money in the Omphalos itself. The box, which is chained to the base of the Omphalos, allows people to give without hurting the artwork and beauty of the Omphalos.

Significance

The medieval Christian belief that the center of the world would be located here stems from the mindset that the most significant events in history occurred here and it makes sense that God would have those events occur in the most central location of the world. It can be truthfully stated that this is the center of the Christian spiritual world. Without the death of Christ on Golgotha, located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial, the Stone of Anointing or Unction Stone which is located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the empty tomb from which Jesus emerged after being raised back from the dead, which is also located within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian faith would not exist. This is indeed the spiritual center of Christianity. So, the Omphalos definitely marks the center of Christendom.

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