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The spectacular church has a history that is bound to leave us amazed. The church stands tall at the spot that once used to be a temple dedicated to Goddess Venus. The church was built by Roman emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD to conceal the cave where Jesus was entombed.
Legends state that somewhere between 325 and 326 CE, Christian emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helena found the True cross in a cistern beneath the temple. They then reinstated the temple in a church, much larger than the existing one which was unfortunately destroyed by Persians in 614 CE.
In 630 CE, Emperor Heraclius restored the True Cross back to the church, which was seized by the Persians. Patriarch Modestus later reconstructed the church with the original plan.
In 638, Jerusalem was surrendered to the Arab rule, but the Christian sites were survived by the early Muslim rulers. Earthquake and fire marred the church several times in the ninth century. Finally, in 1009, Fatimid ruler Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered to destruct the church, which led to very few remains of the original church. In 1027-28 Ali az-Zahir allowed to restore the church, which got completed in 1048. After years of devastations and restorations, the church still stands tall and undeterred and has become a silhouette of vivid architectural styles.
The church boasts of a splendid architecture that is a combination of Crusader, Byzantine and Greek styles. There is a massive courtyard with two main doors and over 30 unlabeled chapels.
The church encompasses two hallowed sites of Christianity. One is the ‘Hill of Calvary’ or ‘Golgotha’ where Jesus of Nazareth was persecuted. The second one is ‘Sepulchre’, the empty tomb of Jesus, where he was buried and restored. The Sepulchre is within the Rotunda, a round hall, which is supporting bedecked 12 rays roof, representing the apostles. The Rotunda has its original 4th century shape, outer wall of 35 m diameter and 10m height. Sepulchre is surrounded by 12 columns between 4 pairs of square docks.
The entrance to the church leads to a stairway on right side, which goes to the hill of Calvary. There is a rock where Jesus was crucified, right above the place where Adam was buried. From a window to the right, one can see the chapel where Jesus was stripped. Right in front of the main entrance is the Stone of Anointing or Stone of Unction, where Jesus’s body was prepared for burial.
Towards the left side of the church is the Armenian shrine and to the right is the Rotunda with a stone edicule where the tomb of Jesus is kept. A low doorway leads to the tomb.
Behind the edicule is the chapel of Copts, the bed of rock can be seen from which the tomb was unearthed. To the west of the edicule is the Syrian Othodox Chapel, far from which are two tombs, which dates back to 1st century BCE to 1st century CE. To the north of edicule is Franciscan Altar, where most of the Catholic services take place. Further north is Franciscan Chapel, where Jesus gave a non-biblical appearance to Mary, after resurrection.
Revered as the headquarter of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs in Jerusalem, the church is jointly managed by Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian.
·The church operates on ‘winter time’, as per complied rules, thus during summers, the entire schedule is an hour late.
·The keys of the church are held by Nusseibehs, Jerusalem Muslim family. They lock the church, with monks inside, two hours after sunset till before dawn.
·It is commonly said that Jesus was crucified right at the place where Adam’s skull was obscured, and his blood flowed down to fill the skull.
·The tomb of Jesus can accommodate only four people at a time.
·The immovable ladder is believed to lead to a balcony where Armenian ruler used to relax, and also the ladder is said to be used to reach the balcony for cleaning it.
Summer hours (April to September)
Winter hours (October to March)
For further details http://www.cicts.org/default.asp?id=389
By air: Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. It is around 50 kms drive from Jerusalem.
By Train: Jerusalem Malha Railway station, 7 kms from the church.
By Road: Jerusalem is well connected with all nearby cities by road. Buses are easily available from the Central Bus Station, near the main entrance to Jerusalem.
Best time to visit the church is during festivals like Easter and Christmas. The church is surrounded with dozens of restaurants catering to vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines.
Hebron (30 kms)
Petah Tikva (47 kms)
Broken columns—once forming part of an arcade—flank the church's front, which is covered in crusader graffiti mostly consisting of crosses. In the 13th century, the tops of the columns were removed and sent to Mecca by the Khwarezmids.
The church's bell tower is located to the left of the façade. It is currently almost half its original size.