The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a unique shrine in Israel that attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. Despite the lack of pretentious splendor and expensive decorative elements, an atmosphere of grandeur and undeniable holiness reigns in it. It truly is one of a kind.
Why is Holy Sepulcher famous?
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem also known as the Resurrection of Christ is included in the list of the most significant shrines not only in Jerusalem but also in the entire religious world. It is a huge complex of buildings built on the site of the execution, burial, and ascension of the Son of God Jesus Christ and hence attracts a mass pilgrimage.
Today, the cult temple complex belongs to six Orthodox faiths – Syrian, Greek, Coptic, Roman Catholic, Armenian and Ethiopian. Each religion has its limits and fixed hours for prayers. In addition to this, the head office of the Christian Church of Jerusalem operates in the administrative wing of the Temple. One of the main attractions is that the annual ritual of the descent of the Holy Fire is held there. Its television broadcast takes place around the world.
How Church of the Holy Sepulcher changed over the years
The mountain on which the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher was built in Israel is considered one of the oldest places of worship – people have been going there from the 2nd century to offer their prayers. Unfortunately, scientists were unable to establish what exactly the place was like. But according to the most popular version at the top there was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty.
The situation changed after several millennia when the mother of the emperor Constantine I Elena ordered to erect a Christian basilica on the site of the pagan altar. During the excavations carried out before the construction began she was fortunate enough to find unique shrines associated with Jesus! The shrines were about the Life-giving Cross of the Lord, 4 nails, a tablet with the inscription INRI and a cave in which the Son of God was supposedly buried. These findings served as the reason to devote the Church to the Messiah. The consecration of the new complex took place in 335 AD in the presence of the emperor, members of his family, and priests who arrived in Israel from other countries.
At the beginning of the 11th century, the Church of the Resurrection of Christ was almost completely demolished on the orders of the “mad Egyptian caliph” Al-Hakim-Amrullah. The destruction was so great that the subsequent reconstruction of the building took almost half a century. These aren’t the only trials that the main shrine of Jerusalem had to face. The shrine had to face pogroms, natural disasters, and serious fires. The latter, which happened in 1808, caused damage to all buildings and decorative elements. This not only entailed regular repairs but also led to great changes to the shrine.
After Jerusalem was conquered by the troops of Saladin, the complex passed into the possession of Muslims. Despite the fact that the Temple is a mecca for all Christians, the keys to it are kept with an ancient Muslim family. The main reason for this decision was to avoid conflict situations between representatives of different faiths.
The photo of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Israel, presented in the tourist avenues, clearly shows that it consists of several architectural structures. Some of the important ones are as follows.
The facade of the church from the main entrance is considered one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture of the 12th century. Initially, connected portal lunettes were decorated with marble panels depicting the Burial of the Savior and the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem but were later donated to the Rockefeller Museum.
The architecture located on the right side of the door is a wooden hatch that covers the tomb of Philippe d’Aubigne, a French knight who defended Emperor Frederick II at the entrance to the city. The door itself is more than one thousand years old and was laid back under Salah ad-Din.
Column of Holy Fire
The next attraction of the temple complex is the Corinthian column, It is made of white marble and is to the left side of the portal. Unlike the other pilasters, it simply split open on one of the Great Saturdays. Perhaps the reasons for this phenomenon could be easily explained from the point of view of physics however, the religious community is inclined to believe in the divine origin of this defect. In those days, fierce disputes over Easter were waged between the anti-Chalkidonite Armenians and the Orthodox. The latter celebrated Easter 7 days earlier. As a result, the Ottoman ruler ordered the Temple to be locked up and the Orthodox were not allowed to enter the annual service. Outraged by this decision, believers, led by clergy Athanasius and Parthenius, came to pray at the door. Suddenly the wind rose, dark clouds gathered and a powerful roar came. The column split open from the middle and the Holy Fire suddenly arose.
Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows
The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows is a small structure, towering at the eastern end of the courtyard. It serves as the entrance hall of the Golgotha chapel. It is often called the Franconian Chapel or the Chapel of the Attraction of the Robe – this is due to events that occurred after the execution of Jesus Christ. Scientists believe that it was in this room that Roman soldiers shared things of the deceased Messiah.
Pictures of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem indicate that the Arc de Triomphe or the Monomakh Arch is one of the most beautiful buildings in the complex. It was built in memory of Constantine IX, the Roman ruler, who carried out the restoration of the church in 1048.
The main decoration of this building can be called balconies. They are arranged on both sides of the passage and turned to Kuvukliya. Until 1917, it housed consuls, presidents, and honored guests from the main Orthodox states who came to Israel for solemn services. In addition, under the arch, one can see a stone lintel with an inscription glorifying “Mother of the Churches of God.”
The anointing stone in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is laid right at the entrance. It is hidden behind a slab of white marble. Everyone who goes there wants to touch it because it was in that place, where crucified Christ laid. Over the sacred relic, 8 lamps are lit, symbolizing the sphere of influence of religious denominations. The stone is a mixture consisting of 40 components that are not found in nature. These include incense, with which their ancestors cleaned the bodies of the dead before burial.
For several decades, scientists have been trying to understand the nature of this phenomenon. But neither round-the-clock video filming, nor close monitoring of the stone, nor all kinds of analyzes yielded anything. However, thousands of pilgrims who come to Israel are looking here not for scientific evidence and explanations, but for tranquility and the opportunity to be healed.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, a photo of which is present in most tourist avenues in Israel, consists of 3 parts.
Temple of the resurrection
The Church of the Resurrection or Katholikon is located in the central part of the complex. It is fenced off from areas by walls that do not reach the ceiling. Initially, it included several shrines, but Greek reconstruction dramatically changed the overall structure of the structure. In addition to the sidewalls, a high iconostasis was installed in the church, two 2 throne places (for the Patriarch of Israel and his epitrope), as well as a gallery with three balconies from which the priest reads the texts of the Gospel.
Under the dome of Katholikon, towering above it is the “mesomphalos”. It is a marble hemisphere, placed on a special stand and pointing to the so-called “navel of the Earth.” The dome itself is decorated with a mosaic depicting 12 saints, the Virgin Mary, St. John, and the two main guardian angels – Gabriel and Michael. The niches between the windows are decorated with portraits of angels. The temple of the Lord’s Resurrection is surrounded by wide galleries. In one of them, you can see the Arcade of the Virgin. It is majestic and has 4-sided obelisks and columns, among which one can see the remains of the marble structure of the emperor Hadrian.
One can get into this area of the temple complex by a 13-step staircase located at the entrance to the Katholikon. There are 2 naves (for Orthodox Christians and Catholics) and a hole in the ground, from where the cross was removed (indicated by a silver circle). Dipping your hand into the recess, you can touch Calvary, the place where Christ was executed. Near the silver circle, there are 2 black circles. They point to the crosses of criminals killed with the Prophet. There is a fairly noticeable crack in the nearby rock. They say that it appeared at the same time as the martyr’s last breath.
In addition, another interesting story is connected with Golgotha in Israel. It is believed that at the site, Adam, the progenitor of all mankind, expelled from Paradise due to the fall, was buried. The blood of Christ, leaked through the earth, fell on the remains of the first man, and atoned for sins.
Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher
The marble Kuvukliya, built over the Holy Sepulcher, includes two parts – the cave, which became the tomb of Jesus, and the Angel chapel. It is there that the Sacred Fire is lit on Easter Saturday, which is then spread all over the world.
In the middle of the chapel stands a pedestal with a piece of sacred stone broken by an angel. During the liturgy, it is used as a throne. Lamps are burned long the wall – 15 pieces in 3 rows. The entrance to Kuvukliya is decorated with a marble portal. On one side of the portal the archangel Gabriel is depicted, and on the other – the myrrh-bearing wife. The marble canopy located at the top of the portal deserves no less attention. The inscription on it indicates the resurrection of the Son of God.
The main attraction of the chapel is the Three Day Stone Bed of Christ, installed in a small chamber. Once it was in free access, but in 1812 it was covered with a marble slab that protects the shrine from vandals. On the shelves nailed near the Tridnevny bed, there are icons of the Resurrection – one from each Orthodox denomination.
How to get there
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (Israel) is located at 1 Helena Str., Old City, POB 186, Jerusalem. You can get into it in several ways.
Method 1. On foot from the Old Town
You can go to the territory of the main Israeli shrine both from the Christian quarter and from the street. Suk Khan al-Zeit.
Method 2. By bus
- No. 99, 13, 41, 19, 30, 20 of the Egged transport company – go to the Jaffa Gate of Old Jerusalem;
- No. 38 – runs to the Jewish quarter;
- No. 1, 2, 3, and 21 – stop at the Damascus Gate.
Important! It is better to clarify the route at the reception of the hotel.
Method 3. By Tram
The Jerusalem aboveground metro, more reminiscent of an ordinary tram, is represented by one branch – “City Hall” – “Damascus Gate”. The first station is near the New Gate. The second is near Damask.
Method 4. By Taxi
This option is considered the most convenient but is also the most expensive. If you want to save money it is advised to get down near the New Gate – they are closest to the Temple.
The schedule of the temple complex in Israel depends on the time of year.
Summer (April – September):
- Mon-Sat – from 5.00 to 21.00;
- Sun – from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Winter (October – March):
- Mon-Fri from 4.00 to 19.00.
Important! More information can be obtained on the official website: churchoftheholysepulchre.net/
When deciding to visit a shrine, be sure to consider several important points:
- The smallest influx of tourists is observed in the early morning (around 8.00) and in the evening (16.00-17.00). At this time, one can safely sightsee, take pictures as a keepsake and touch the stone of anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher;
- The complex is often closed a little later than the specified time, so do not rush to leave its territory;
- Before your trip, find out if big Christian holidays fall during your stay in Jerusalem. Due to the huge number of pilgrims, getting into the church will be difficult;
- Everyone can attend the daily worship services. The only condition is proper appearance and compliance with the basic rules;
- The temple has a dress code, so during the visit, you can not wear short skirts, shorts , a dress with a neckline, high-heeled shoes, as well as tight-fitting and too bright dresses. Women need to cover their heads with a handkerchief;
- Do not forget to choose comfortable and maximum closed shoes – you will have to walk a lot;
- If you want your loved ones to be mentioned during prayer, write their names on a piece of paper and give it to one of the monks.
And one more nuance. After visiting the complex, many ask how to use candles from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Firstly, it should be noted that they are sold in bundles of 33 pieces each. Jerusalem candles are usually set on fire from the Holy Fire and extinguished with a special cap or with bare hands (you can’t blow out a bunch). Next, the bunch is taken home, and should not be divided into parts. It is believed that Jerusalem candles hold a life-giving power and are an incredibly powerful amulet. Moreover, each candle lit from the sacred bundle receives the same qualities.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (Israel) is not only an important historical attraction but also the main symbol of the Christian religion. Everything there is so saturated with the spirit of the time that even complete atheists begin to feel heavenly grace.