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the Church of Holy sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre claims to be located in the exact location of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  It was built in 335 CE by Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine.  She went to the Jerusalem for the purpose of identifying these locations and claimed she found them.  Then she built the church on this site.

The church is now under six caretakers: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox, and the Ethiopian Orthodox. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Some scholars think that this location should be outside the walls of Jerusalem.  However, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was in fact outside the city walls in the time of Jesus.  About 41-43 CE, Herod Antipas expanded Jerusalem by building more walls, and a third wall was built that included the sites of the crucifixion and burial.  This is accounts for the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre being in the wall city today.

Entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

* Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.

Entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

There are two arched doors in the entrance.  The right-hand side was blocked by Muslim reconquest of the city in 1187.  Tourists can enter through the left-hand side door.  Also on the right hand-side of this photo, you can see a flight of stairs, it is called a Chapel of the Franks.  Some says that this is an ancient entrance of the hill of Golgotha.  This chapel commemorates the stripping off of Jesus’ clothes by Roman Soldiers.

the stripping off of Jesus’ clothes by Roman Soldiers

John 19:23-24

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24 So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,

“They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

stone of Anointing

Right at the entrance, you will see a rectangular stone called the Stone of Anointing.  This is not the stone that Jesus’ body was laid on for anointing but it is to remind us that Jesus’ body was anointed with spices before being laid in the tomb.

*Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussem.

The Burial of Jesus

John 19:38-40

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.


structure Inside the church

This church’s structures were destroyed several times: Fires in 614 CE, 938 CE, and 1808 CE; earthquakes in 746 CE and 910 CE; fire by Muslim invasion in 966 CE; destruction by Muslims in 1010 CE.  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been rebuilt on numerous occasions in the past.

the art of the church

Tourists can see beautiful structures, paintings, marbles, mosaics, and domes in the church.


Stairs to calvary

Some say that this is a flight of stairs leading to Calvary in Latin or Golgotha in Aramaic.  

*Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

John 19:17-19 So they took Jesus; 17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

Rock cracked by earthquake

Chapel of the Crucifixion is marked by an Eastern Orthodox chapel.  Through the glass on the ground, we can see the rock of Golgotha.  In between there is a crack.  Geologists say an earthquake may have struck Judea around April 3 in the year 33 based on an analysis of seismic records (NBCNews archive on 5/24/2012).  The Gospel also mentioned about the earthquake when Jesus breathed His last (Matt 27:51).

The Death of Jesus

Matthew 27:45-51 45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  46  And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  47  When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48  At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.  49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50  Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.  51  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

1st century ancient tomb

This ancient tomb is located around the Syrian Chapel.  Dr. Carl Rasmussen has said:” The tradition is that Joseph of Arimathea was buried here, after he had given his original tomb for Jesus to be buried in.”

outside look of the tomb

This empty tomb reminds us that Jesus was dead, buried, and resurrected.

The Resurrection of Jesus

John 20:1-10

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”  Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  10  Then the disciples returned to their homes.

jesus' tomb

Some say that this was Jesus’ tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  It sits beneath the central dome of the church.  Visitors need to line up and stoop to enter the six feet long x six feet wide tomb.  Only 3-4 visitors are allowed at a time.  Since photographs are prohibited inside the tomb, I only took the outside structure of the photo.


Visitors can see beautiful mosaics on the ground or even on the walls in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

closing Ceremony

Closing the door of the church at night is a “must see” program.  An interesting fact is that the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been kept by an Arab family since the seventh century CE.  And a second Arab family has been in charge of opening and closing the door each day.  Because the church building is shared by six Christian denominations, things go more smoothly when these neutral Arab families are in charge of the keys.

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