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prison of Christ

When touring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a visitor can pass through the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene and will come upon the Arches of the Virgin. Just past these arches is the Prison of Christ. This is the place where Jesus was imprisoned with the other two men who were set to be executed as they awaited the time for them to be crucified.


The corridor past the Arches of the Virgin leads to another smaller arch that displays two freestanding columns. Just beyond this arch, the entrance to the Prison of Christ is visible. Prior to going through the entrance, a small room has some interesting components. Four lamps hang from the ceiling to provide a small amount of light. In the floor of this small room is a square mosaic image of a double-headed eagle. A crown hovers above the eagle figure with the entire encircle in a round decorative embellishment with a square detail enclosing the entire mosaic. The double-headed eagle is a symbol of the Byzantine empire and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Also, found in this outer room, to the right when facing the door to the actual prison, is an altar with a glass encasement found under the altar. Behind the glass, two holes are on the floor. Tradition holds that these holes are the imprints of the feet of Jesus. Worshippers slip notes inside of the windows. To the left of the door, a small table sits. Two windows are on the walls of the prison, one above the altar with the foot imprints of Christ and the other behind the table on the left. The doorway is an arched doorway that has an iron gate acting as a door.

hrough the door is the actual Chapel of the Prison of Christ. A small corridor that is made of stone leads to the plain altar. Arches on each side of the altar allow passage to two side rooms where other prisoners would have been held. Some of the walls that surround the prison date back to the first church walls from AD 330.


Two items of significance are important to notice. First, Jesus and the other two men who were crucified on that day at to be held somewhere while all of the preparations were made for the crucifixion event. There was a holding cell or a place that had to be guarded somewhere around in order to hold the prisoners.

econd, one of the men who was executed that day chose to believe in Jesus and recognized that though that prisoner was receiving justice for his crimes, Jesus had done nothing wrong and did not deserve the punishment of dying on the cross. It is conceivable that this prisoner talked with Jesus prior to the crucifixion event and the process of believing for him started before they walked to Golgotha where they were hung on their crosses.

The Prison of Christ and the simple chapel that sits inside it highlights the opportunity to reflect on all that Jesus went through before being nailed to the cross.

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