Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The winding Via Dolorosa mysteriously disappears,
and suddenly – at the highest point in the Old City –
rises The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. With its mysterious light, its bustle of construction work, its competing chants and burning incense it is a magnificent mix of ancient and modern.
Here the Romans had a temple dedicated to Venus.
Here in the 4th century Constantine built a church when his mother Helena identified Jesus’ tomb. That church was destroyed, and the Crusaders built the present church in the 12th century; much has been added since the Crusaders left.
The church is now shared by several Christian communities, each of whom maintains its own chapels, altars, and schedule of services. The final Stations of the Cross are in front of you to explore. The section built over the hillock where the Crucifixion took place – called Golgotha, from the Hebrew; Calvary, from the Latin – and the tomb where Jesus was laid. Just inside the front door, stairs to the right lead up to Golgotha. The tenth station where Jesus was stripped of his garments is marked by a floor mosaic. The next three stations are located at Greek and Latin altars on this same level; they mark the nailing of Jesus to the Cross, the setting of the Cross in place, and the removal of his body. The Fourteenth station, below, is the Holy Sepulchre itself. The tomb is downstairs, under the church’s main rotunda.
Within the Holy Sepulchre are the Angel’s Chapel, the rock that was mysteriously rolled away from the tomb entrance, the chapel that holds the burial site, and the adjacent Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Notable within the church complex are the Catholicon, the Greek Cathedral close to the main rotunda; its stone chalice on the floor marks the center of the world. There are also chapels dedicated to St. Helena, to Adam, to the Raising of the Cross, and tombs of the Crusader Kings of Jerusalem.
Aaaah. But it is in these cavern-like tombs and side chapels that you will find places of contemplation, far away from the madding crowd. Sit in relative silence in a chapel beneath the main floor of the church. Listen to an Eastern Orthodox mass being chanted in a distant nave. Watch a solitary monk polish a candlestick. Breathe deeply and dwell in the garden of your faith