As mentioned in my Jerusalem Travel Guide page, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest site in Christianity. The church is located in the Old City of Jerusalem and has been a pilgrimage site for over 1,600 years.
The site the church stands on includes Jesus’ burial place as well as the spot in which he was crucified. Unlike other historic religious sites the Holy Sepulchre (or Holy Sepulcher) is agreed by most experts and archaeologists to be the actual burial place of Jesus.
Inside the church you will find plenty of interesting sections, including 5 of the Stations of the Cross. The main attractions are:
The history of the place probably started with the first Christians, who celebrated at the site after Christ’s resurrection and until the city was taken by the Romans. In 135 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a temple to Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love, desire and beauty), on top of the burial site.
In 312 AD Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. Excited about his new religion Constantine ordered to build several churches and the most important of those was this Church. The pagan temple was cleared and the church was built between 326-335 AD. It is believed that during the initial building of the church the Golgotha – or Calvary was found. The Golgotha is the place in which Jesus was crucified.
The fate of the church’s structure until modern times wasn’t that great. It was ruined by a crazy Muslim ruler – caliph Hakim in 1009 AD. It was later on restored by the crusaders after they conquered Jerusalem. In 1808 the church was damaged by fire and again in 1927 by an earthquake. The three main Christian custodians of the church are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Apostolic churches. In 1959 those churches agreed on a major renovation plan that led to the way the church looks today.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has quite a unique look due to the history of the church and the shared ownership by the above
is somewhat of a mix between medieval/crusader/Byzantine styles, which
might look a little odd to you. It does to me anyway. However, I can
totally see how a visit to this church can be extremely meaningful,
especially if you are Christian.
Take my advice and visit the church even if you aren’t Christian (if you are I’m sure you will…) – it is quite an experience.
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