The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo

    Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Updated Jan 25, 2013

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    Church of the Holy Sepulchre
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    Deleted text on Barbara’s request

    You can watch my 4 min 08 sec HD Video Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre out of my Youtube channel.

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    Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    by iblatt Updated Nov 10, 2007

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    Church dome seen from the roof
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    As one can expect from a church of such importance to all Christians, this is a very impressive site. The sad fact about the church's condition, however, is that it is divided into several parts belonging to different Christian denominations, and the struggle of power among them makes every work of rennovation or improvement almost impossible.
    In the photo of the church's entrance you may notice a ladder (leading nowhere) in the upper part of the facade. It has been there for decades, owing to the fact that no one sect dares make any changes, fearing the response of the other sects.
    The Greek Orthodox church is the most powerful in the Church of Holy Sepulchre, followed by the Armenian Church, the Catholic Church and the Coptic Church. The Ethiopian Church has no part or parcel in the church itself, but occupies its roof.

    Most of what you see today was erected by the Crusaders (about 900 years ago). Very few earlier, Byzantine features have survived.
    A guided tour of the church is a must in order to see and appreciate all its different sections: you climb the stairs to Golgaltha, visit the 10th to 13th stations of the cross and the site of crucifixion.
    You then descend again to the entrance level, where the highlight is the Holy Sepulchre itself; expect a long queue to enter.
    The Catholicon, also on the ground floor, boasts an elegant dome and "the navel of the world".
    Another popular site near the entrance is a marble slab where Jesus's body was treated and purified prior to his burial. Beautiful oil containers belonging to the different Christian denominations drip oil onto the slab.
    On a still lower level you descend to St. Helen's Chapel, where according to tradition the original cross was discovered by St. Helen.
    Don't forget to climb to the roof: the area occupied by the Ethiopian monks looks more like an Ethiopian village, and their church is a good example of the Monophysitic church style.

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    Way of the Cross - Stations 10-14

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 10, 2010

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    Way of the Cross - Stations 10-14
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    The Stations X through XIV are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

    The Tenth Station - where Jesus was stripped of His garments.
    The Frankish Chapel in the Facade of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The spur of Calvary today lies within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When you enter the main door of the church a stairway on your right takes you to the spot where Jesus faced the death sentence. A great part of the platform of Calvary rests on an infrastructure. Only the eastern part rests directly onto the rock. The Tenth Station is located at the beginning of the nave on the right.

    The Eleventh Station - where Jesus was nailed to the Cross.
    The altar of the Nailing to the Cross. This Latin nave was restored in 1937 by A. Barluzzi. The altar of silvered bronze is a gift of Ferdinand I de Medici. It is claimed to be the work of the Dominican Domenico Portigiani (1588) and was originally meant for the Stone of Unction. The altar panels represent the scenes of the Passion.

    The Twelfth Station - where Jesus died on the Cross.
    The altar of the Crucifixion. Tradition places the erection of the cross and the death of Jesus in the eastern part of the nave on the left. A silver disk with a central hole, underneath the Greek Orthodox altar, marks the spot where the Cross stood. The site of the crucifixion has been fixed since Constantine's time when at this site he had erected a wooden cross replaced in 417 by the Emperor Theodosius II with another cross made of gold and precious stones.

    The Thirteenth Station - where Jesus was taken down from the Cross.
    Coming down from Calvary, on the way to the Holy Sepulchre, in front of the main entrance of the Church, lies what has become known as the Stone of the Unction. In Jerusalem the scene of the taking down from the Cross was usually linked to that of the anointing, and located to the west of Calvary on the spot where, before the Crusaders, stood the Chapel of Saint Mary. The spot of the Anointing has been venerated since the end of the 13th century. The stone covers the rock on which the body of Jesus would have rested. Early pilgrims described this stone as black, green or white. Today it consists of a red polished block.

    The Fourteenth Station - where Jesus was laid in the Sepulchre.
    The actual sepulchral chamber is a small and awe-inspiring candle-lit space. A marble slab, laid there in 1555 by Fr. Boniface of Ragusa, Franciscan Guardian of Mount Sion, protects the rock of the tomb. Over the tomb, there are a great number of silver lamps, which belong to the three Christian denominations who share the property of the tomb: Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. It is here that Christ completed His earthly mission before His glorious Resurrection in accordance with the prophecies.

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    Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    by mafi_moya Written Nov 11, 2004

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    Inside the Church

    Technically this isn't actually one church as in fact there are 36 (or thereabouts) different churches inside the one huge building. Catholics, Orthodox, Copts, Armenians, Ethiopians... all have their own churches and priests here and relationships are not always easy-going. I was told that the main key had to be given to a Muslim family to look after, in order to stop the different churches squabbling!

    It was built in 335 by Emperor Constantine, and added to by the Crusaders, on the site where it is believed Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. As befitting a church with so many influences, the architecture and design inside differs at every turn. It's dark and garishly decorated with lots of gold and rich colours, and very very sombre. I can't say it was a particularly welcoming or uplifting church, but I found its eerie and mysterious atmosphere and shadowy corners fascinating.

    At various times throughout the day, the priests and monks carry out their own ceremonies and the church often echoes with the sound of monastic hymns.

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    Atrium or Entrance Court

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    The atrium or the entrance court is open areas in front of the main entrance where pilgrims gather before entering the Church. You can get there from the west side. Have a rest there and admire several buildings around the court.
    You’ll see Greek Chapels in the north side of the court, the Greek Monastery of Abraham, the Armenian Chapel of St. James and the Coptic Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel in the south side of the court.
    To my great surprise it wasn’t overcrowded when I was there on Sunday evening of Western Easter and on Monday and Tuesday of Eastern Easter week.

    You can watch my 2 min 22 sec HD Video Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre Entrance Court out of my Youtube channel.

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    Stone of Unction

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    First thing you will see when enter the Church is the Stone of Unction which is located just a few steps after the entrance into the Church. It commemorates the preparation of Jesus' body for burial. This limestone slab dates from 1808, when the prior XII-th-century slab was destroyed. Ownership of this site has varied over the centuries, but it now belongs to the four main Christian religions: Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.
    Pilgrims (mostly women) meditates on the death of Christ at the Stone of Unction.
    You will also see the opulent lamps that hanging over the stone slab.

    You can watch my 3 min 07 sec HD Video Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre Stone of Unction out of my Youtube channel.

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    Rotunda

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Rotunda
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    The round area of the church is known as the Rotunda or Anastasis. It preserves the location and shape, and a few original columns, of Constantine's IV-th-century Church of the Resurrection built on the site of Christ's tomb.
    The Rotunda is surmounted by a large dome, completed in the 1960s. It is decorated with a 12-pointed star whose rays symbolize the outreach of the 12 apostles. The diameter of the dome is about 20 meters; the height is 34 meters.

    You will see there the Edicule with the Tomb Christ, the Coptic Chapel where a piece of the tomb of Christ is located and the Syrian Chapel.

    You can watch my 5 min 18 sec HD Video Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre Rotunda and Edicule out of my Youtube channel.

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    Calvary (Golgotha)

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 12, 2010

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    A stairway on the right the Greek Chapel of the Derision just inside the entrance leads to Calvary (or Golgotha), the place where it is believed Jesus was crucified.

    The first chapel is the Catholic (Franciscan) Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross, which is Station 11 on the Via Dolorosa. It features a 12th-century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross on the vault and a Medici altar from Florence. Just to the left of the altar is a statue of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, which is Station 13 (Jesus' body removed from the cross and given to Mary).
    On the far left is the Greek Orthodox Calvary, which contains the actual Rock of Calvary (Station 12) around which this church was built.
    The Crucifixion can be touched under the central altar.

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    Church of the Holy Sepulchre -2

    by jadedmuse Updated Mar 23, 2008

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    Around the corner from the entrance and basically in the middle of the building, is a tall wooden structure - it houses the Holy Sepulchre (burial chamber). Count on a line of people waiting to pay their respects at this most venerated site - it's worth it.

    When you get inside, you'll find what is considered to be the stone upon which Christ was laid out inside the burial chamber. Of course it's since been covered by a slab of marble which is to protect the holy stone from being vandalized with graffiti or chipped at by some fanatic.

    Interestingly enough, on the other side of this wooden structure that holds the sepulchre, are the Copts who claim part of the tomb and guard it lovingly. I’ve visited here three times over a six year span and have seen this same priest twice, which is actually not unusual. It is after all, a very small and insular world there. Anyways it’s tradition to both leave a small donation for the Copts (the poorest and smallest of the Christian faiths, and also one of the very oldest) after kneeling down and kissing the wall of the tomb.

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    Crusader Façade and Entrance

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Crusader Fa��ade and Entrance
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    The exterior facade and the main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre look magnificent. They are located on the east side of the Church.
    The exterior facade is believed to be built by the Crusaders in the XII-th century. A double arcade with frieze at both levels are each surmounted by a cornice. The right entrance door is blocked by Muslims after the Crusaders were defeated.
    The truncated Crusader Bell Tower is to the left of the entrance.

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    Chapel of the Franks

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Chapel of the Franks
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    The east wall of the Church has a small domed structure which attracts attention when you are standing at the Entrance court. It was once the XII-th-century Crusader entrance to the Church on Calvary. It later became the Chapel of the Franks.
    Now it is believed to be the 10th Station of the Cross.

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    Edicule or Kuvuklia

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    The Tomb of Christ itself is enshrined in a large, boxy shrine, referred to as the Edicule (or Kuvuklia for Eastern Christians). It is located underneath the large dome of the Rotonda.
    The original IV-th century shrine constructed under Constantine is believed to be destroyed by the sultan Hakim in the XI-th century. In the XVI-th century another shrine was built by the Franciscan friar Bonifacio da Ragusa. But it was destructed in the severe fire of 1808.
    The current structure was built in 1809-10 on money of the Russian Imperator Alexander I in shapes of the Kuvuklia which is located in New Jerusalem near Moscow.
    You will see the Chapel of the Angel and the Holy Sepulcher Chapel inside the Edicule.

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    Chapel of the Angel

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written Mar 11, 2010

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    Chapel of the Angel
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    The Chapel of the Angels is the first of two small rooms inside the Edicule. This altar contains a stone believed to be part of the large stone that was rolled away from Christ's tomb on Easter morning. The archway in the back leads to the Tomb of Christ itself.

    You can watch my 3 min 16 sec HD Video Jerusalem Church of the Holy Sepulchre Chapel of the Angel and Holy Sepulcher Chapel out of my Youtube channel.

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    Church of the Holy Sepulchre - 3

    by jadedmuse Updated Mar 23, 2008

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    Up the stairs is where the rock of Golgotha is - the rock upon which Jesus Christ was crucified. As you make a left turn, you'll see a gilded alter to your right. Underneath is a hole in the floor where you can reach in and touch the rock. If you're disappointed that you can't actually visualize this famous rock (because I know I was), you'll get a chance to see it albeit behind bulletproof glass panels, back downstairs.

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    Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    by jadedmuse Updated Mar 23, 2008

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    Unction Stone

    One of the first things you'll see inside is the Unction Stone - where Jesus' body was annointed with oil after they retrieved it from the cross of crucifixion. Good luck touching it much less getting close to it - you'll have to battle all the old ladies kneeling and wiping it with their scarves and or pouring oil on it....above it are some interesting looking hanging lamps.

    The last time I was in Jerusalem was in December of 2004 however, and to my delight there were few tourists at that time and I was able to better appreciate the significance of this church, which is widely held to be built upon the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and was resurrected. If you're wondering (like I was the first time around) how it can be that a Jew is buried inside the walls of the city, remember - the perimeter of the Old City has changed countless times.

    Back in the days of Jesus Christ, this very site was actually a rock quarry just outside the city walls. As with other Christian holy shrines and churches, this too was built under the mandate of the Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena.

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