Mount Calvary in Jerusalem is a sacred place for Christians, located on the outskirts of the city of three religions. It is inextricably linked with the emergence of the many modern-day religions and thousands of people make pilgrimages here daily.
According to legend, Jesus Christ was crucified on Mount Calvary in Israel. Thus it is considered as one of the two main shrines for Christians. The second is the Holy Sepulcher. Initially, it was a part of Gareb Hill. But after the deliberate destruction of the hill for the construction of the church, Calvary hill became part of a single temple complex.
Does Mount Calvary still exist?
The only remains of this hill can today be found inside the church, where it is a rock about 5 meters above the ground. Calvary, also known as Golgotha is located in the western part of Israel, not far from the border with Jordan. Golgotha is a significant contributor to tourism in Jerusalem with more than 3 million pilgrims visiting it annually. Such is the pull of this attraction that the visitors are daunted neither by the scorching sun in July and August nor the huge lines in which they have to stand.
What does Golgotha mean?
Translated from Hebrew, the word “Golgotha” means “the place of the skull”. It is believed that executions were carried in Golgotha in ancient times. Under the mountain, there is a pit into which the bodies of the people who were killed were thrown off. Other believe that Golgotha is “the place of the skull” as the hill resembles a skull.
Golgotha the stone quarry
While exploring Mount Golgotha, the archaeologists in Israel found that back in the VIII century BC this area was a limestone quarry. In the first century AD, the mountain surroundings were covered with soil and gardens according to the traditions of that time. Excavations have also shown that this area had for long been a full-fledged cemetery. The remains of many people were found here, including the tomb of Jesus Christ, located in the western part of the hill.
At the beginning of the 7th century, while restoring the church, Mount Golgotha was included in the temple complex, and a small temple was erected on it that connected to the Basilica of Martyrium. In the 11th century, Golgotha acquired its present appearance. Gareb Hill was destroyed for the construction of another church, which combined the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the hill into a single complex.
In 1009, the Muslim ruler of the city, Caliph al-Hakim, wanted to destroy the shrine. However, due to the slowness of the government, this, fortunately, did not happen.
It is believed that the Holy Sepulcher was found back in 325 BC when Emperor Constantine I ordered the demolition of a pagan temple and the construction of a new church in its place. Despite the fact that over the centuries the temple was restored more than once, and only a small fraction remained from the former shrine, photos of the modern Mount Golgotha in the holy city are still admired today.
Repeated excavations in Jerusalem were carried out by the English general and archaeologist Charles Gordon in 1883. In the nineteenth century, the mountain was referred to as the “Garden Cemetery”. During the restoration, which was carried out in 1937, the walls of the temples were decorated with colored mosaics and other decorative elements. Gilded candelabra that were presented to the city by the famous Italian patrons of the Medici were also installed in the church.
Today, it is forbidden to make any changes to the architecture of the churches of Jerusalem without the consent of each of the representatives of 6 faiths, between whom the temple is divided: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Syrian and Coptic.
The appearance of this temple complex in Israel has changed over the course of several centuries. The architecture of the church has become more complex and sophisticated however the distinguishing features have not been lost.
Modern Day Calvary
Today, Golgotha is included in the temple complex of the Holy Sepulcher. In the eastern part of the hill is the tomb of Jesus Christ and the burial chamber, and above it is the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord, which can be reached by climbing 28 steep steps.
Mount Calvary in Israel can be divided into 3 parts. The first being the Altar of the Crucifixion, on which Jesus Christ ended his earthly journey. Previously, there was a cross, but now there is a throne with a hole that all believers can touch.
The second part of Calvary is the place where soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. It is called the Altar of Nails. And the third part, the Altar, located on the top of the mountain, is “Stabat Mater”. Like the Altar of Nails, it is the property of the Catholic Church, but both Orthodox and Protestants can visit this place. According to legend, it was on this spot that the Virgin appeared when Jesus Christ was crucified. Today this place is very popular among pilgrims.
Location (coordinates): 31.778475, 35.229940.
Visiting hours: 8.00 – 17.00, seven days a week.
- Wear comfortable shoes and non-restraining clothing. Do not forget about the dress code: females need to bring a scarf to cover their heads.
- Be sure to bring a bottle of water with you.
- Remember that for the stairs leading to the Holy Sepulcher, you need to climb barefoot.
- Be prepared for long lines.
- Priests are allowed to take photos of Mount Calvary.
Mount Golgotha in Jerusalem (Israel) is an exceptionally sacred place for Christians, which should be visited at least once in their lifetime by every believer.