The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is possibly the holiest site in Christendom. According to a centuries old tradition, it marks the place of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. By Christian faith, it is also the site of his death and resurrection. Known as the “Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” the site is in the heart of the Christian Quarter, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The church attracts millions of tourists from all around the world, and is one of the most popular tour destinations in Israel.
History of the Holy Sepulchre
Being a typical tomb to Jerusalem in early Roman times, the site was probably part of a cemetery outside the city. The hill of crucifixion (Golgotha) and Tomb of Jesus were identified in the early 4th century and confirmed by the Empress, Helena Augusta. Within the next decade, a mass scale church complex was built over it, with an entrance from the main street of the city (the Cardo Maximus). Completed and opened in 335 CE, the church was modified several times over the course of time. In the 11th Century, Muslims attempted to turn part of the church into a mosque. This was one of the reasons the Crusades came to the Holy Land. The Crusaders gave the church much of its current shape. Today, its maintenance is split between 6 different Christian denominations.
Touring the Holy Sepulchre
For many Christians, a visit to the Holy Sepulchre is the culmination of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The lines to touch the Golgotha and to enter the Tomb of Jesus can be long, as the space inside is very limited. According to Assyriac tradition, there is a secret tunnel beneath the tomb, but it has never been shown to visitors or even scholars. The church is also known for its daily Processions, preserving centuries old liturgical traditions of different Christian communities.
Additional points of interest in the church are the Stone of Unction, the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the Chapel of the finding of the Cross, and the anecdote of the Immovable Ladder. The church also bears the last five stations of the “Stations of the Cross” or “Via Dolorosa“. It is especially recommended to join the Franciscan procession along these stations every Friday afternoon.
When is Best Time to Visit the Site?
Visitin the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a very special experience, and not just for Christians. Howevr, it can get very crowded, especially at mid day, tour seasons, and Christian holidays. A local guide will know best when is a good time to see it, and can provide in-depth explanations – and there is much to tell at this church. Visiting this church is best if combined in a Day tour of Jerusalem.