The most prominent external architectural features of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two gray domes that sit atop the church. The larger of the domes marks the place of the Rotunda. Underneath the center of the rotunda is The Edicule which houses the empty tomb where Jesus was laid after His crucifixion.
The Rotunda, also known as Anastasis which is Greek for “resurrection,” is the large dome that gives shelter to the most important site in all of Christianity, the empty tomb. The Rotunda is supported by four levels of arches and columns that support the impressive interior of the dome. The interior ceiling of the dome itself has twelve golden adornments that flow out of the center of the dome. A sun-like feature surrounds the central hole in The Rotunda which is a window that lets in natural light. While the sun is shining outside, a shaft of sunlight is thrown onto the floor on The Rotunda and directly on The Edicule during certain times of the day. Massive lamps hang down throughout The Rotunda area as well. Along with the Edicule, the Rotunda houses the Coptic Chapel, which is on the back side of the Edicule, the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, and the Jewish tomb.
The present-day Rotunda shows the original theme of the architecture being a Roman-Byzantine structure. Over the centuries, the Rotunda itself has been restored in such a way that what once were windows have lost their direct sunlight. Plus, a mezzanine has divided the circular walkway into two separate levels. During the last restoration, twelve columns that make up the lower level supports were returned to their original form.
The Rotunda is a large, roomy space that leaves room to walk around the Edicule. During special occasions and important days of worship, the rotunda is filled with those worshipping God for what occurred at the now empty tomb.
Through the centuries, Christians have held this special place in high regards. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, especially the Rotunda area and the Edicule housing the empty tomb of Jesus, have allowed believers to reflect on the significance of the resurrection, worship God because of the victory He has provided, and remember the lengths that God would go to have a reconciled relationship with His greatest creation, humanity. Those who love and follow Jesus regard this place as a holy and sacred place to experience incredible times of worship and adoration of God and His Son, Jesus.
However, just as precious as this place is to Christians, others have found these holy sites to be offensive and damaging to what they believe. So, many times throughout history these holy places have been destroyed by unbelievers, especially Muslims. The religious battles that have been waged to protect or win back these sites have brought much destruction to Jerusalem in general and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher specifically. From the Crusades to wars fought in order to gain possession of these holy sites, many have given much to give Christians the opportunity to visit and worship at the empty tomb.