This was the very first place we went to upon arrival into Jerusalem. It just could not wait. Find the Garden Tomb just north of the Damascus Gate. the surrounding region is very busy, however the garden itself is a different world altogether.
There is somewhat of a debate concerning where exactly Jesus was crucified and buried. The "traditional" site is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. However, many feel that this is the place. A priest once said, "If this is not the place, then it should have been." Unlike the big church, this spot has all of the elements of the tomb in the Bible. There is a skull rock formation nearby. The tomb is in a garden, it must have been the tomb of a wealthier man, it is EMPTY, and it is the type where a stone is rolled away to access the tomb. By the way, that stone must have been very large.
Before going, make sure you access the website concerning the hours. Due to low numbers of tourists in recent years, they have had to cut back on the access hours.
So you are wondering if I truly believe this to be the place of Jesus' crucifixion and burial? I did visit both here and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They are nothing alike. This is certainly a quiet and tangeable place to contemplate the events of 2000 years ago. Deep down, this place makes much more sense, and I hope this is it.
This is the most sacred site for Christians. It is located inside the church of the Holy Sepulchre and it is owned by the Greek, Armenian, Coptic and Roman Catholic communities. The outer chapel serves as a Greek Orthodox altar.
On the Saturday of Greek Orthodox Easter the Greek Orthodox Patriach enters the tomb alone. The church lamps are all put out as a symbol of the darkness at the Crucifixion. The door of the Tomb stays closed and no one else can enter. The legend says that a fire comes from heaven and lights the candles the Patriarch holds. He comes out and shares the Holy Light, the symbol of Resurrection.
The Holy Light is carried by a special flight of Olympic Airways to Greece to go to the main cities and churches for the ceremony of Resurrection.
He is not here – for He is risen…
Many people got confused that there’s an alternative burial site of Jesus apart from the Sepulchre Church. The Garden Tomb is located outside the walls of the Old City just over Damascus Gate on a peaceful area with a nice big lush garden. It’s popular among protestants but worth a visit anyway because it works as a great break away from the hustle of East Jerusalem.
It was unearthed in 1867 and the whole area is maintained by the Garden Tomb Association in UK! They claim that Golgotha couldn’t be inside the city walls but they forget that in reality Herod Agrippa expanded the city walls in 41-44AD so even church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on a spot that was outside the city walls at the time of Jesus. What’s more archaeologists claim that the tomb dates from 7-9th century BC so it wasn’t a new tomb as the bible reads.
It seems to me they created an alternative because they just didn’t have an rights inside the church but in any case it doesn’t really matter, actually it was so peaceful here at the gardens that probably it’s easier for pilgrims to pray. We walked a bit on the paths (pic 1) and relaxed for a while at one of the numerous benches. We saw other people only at the entrance of the tomb (pic 2) where people waiting patiently to get inside and see the tomb (pic 3). Unlike the church of the Holy Sepulchre you wont need more than 5’ for this :)
But the main reason for our visit is located 30m east of the garden tomb. It’s the Skull Hill which supposed to be Golgotha (which means skull in aramaic). The large eye sockets can be discerned in the cliffside over the arab bus station next to the gardens (pics 4-5)
It’s open Monday to Saturday 8.30-17.15 (closed 12.00-14.00 in quiet seasons)
There’s also a nice souvenir store.
It is believed by many that this is the real location of the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, outside the city walls, and the tomb where Jesus Christ was laid after His crucifixion, others believe His tomb is in the Holy Sepulcher.
This is beautiful garden is one the sites claimed to be Jesus's burrial place. It's very different from the more famous site of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It's not a church, it's a garden with a burrial cave in it. Unlike the other site which is holy for the Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptics and others, this is holy for the protestants. But, you don't need to be a protestant to enjoy it, or even a Christian... There is no addmitance fee to the garden and you can join a guided tour explaining about the place.
Located just north of the Damascus Gate, the Garden Tomb is yet another hypothetical burial place of Jesus Christ. However the Garden Tomb location makes the most sense as a logical burial place due to its location, its very visually pleasing. This is a major Christian tourist hub so be prepared to share the site with a endless stream of tour groups. The entire site is shrouded in trees and bushes and seems entirely cut off from the city, which is exactly what one would expect. Its a very peaceful place to visit even with all the tour groups, in fact most groups hold religious services where they will pray and sing hymns and even if you don't agree with their brand of Christianity the singing adds to the ambience of the place. There is no admission fee.
A huge group of 75 of us visited here in 1999 as an extension to our trip around Turkey which was the 7 churches of Revelations tour leading up to a convergence in the ampitheatre at Ephesus with 10,000 other Christians from around the world - this was a significant part of our trip to Jerusalem
Interesting sites to read on the theories involved in why this is thought by many Christians to be the location of Jesus' tomb rather than the church of the Holy Sepulchre which the Roman Catholic and Orthodox church have afffixed to : -
and Wikipedia also has an interesting write up:
When I lived on the island of Crete, I visited a couple places where I felt that I had almost literally stepped into the pages of our Holy Bible. As I began anticipating my first visit to Israel, I hoped that I would have more than one similar experience. Unfortunately, I did not have any of these experiences and lament that lack but it was still a great trip. One of the highlights of the biblical sites that we visited was the Garden Tomb, one of two locations in Jerusalem that is thought to be a possible location for the burial of Jesus of Nazareth.
I think that there are three possible reasons that I did not have experiences in Israel similar to those that I had at Fair Havens (Kaloi Limenes) on Crete and at the agora in Athens. First, I was much younger and my spiritual formation was still in early development. Second, the sites in Israel were much busier, more crowded, and more commercialized than I experienced in Greece 30 years earlier. Third, the sites in Greece were much more specifically located than most of the sites in Israel were.
The picture is of the entrance to the tomb that a British general named Gordon found located near the Golgotha hill. Many Christians believe that this is actually where Christ was entombed.