The church is where over six different Christian denominations celebrate and mark the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Here you will find traditional Orthodox, Catholic’s, and even the less known church of Ethiopians, which trace their roots to Christianity back to Philip’s conversion on the Ethiopian eunuch. Christian Evangelicals here will explore the world of “historic churches,” described by many scholars.
This Christian church is one of the most complex church buildings in existence. The foundation and first structure was a pagan shrine erected in the second century by the emperor Hadrian, using stones from the destroyed Temple to give an example to Jews and Christians that the Roman empire was the ruler of the country. After Constantine the Great built the first Christian church in the fourth century which extended well over two blocks in today’s Old Christian Quarters of Jerusalem.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you can descend a flight of stairs which walls are decorated by crosses carved by hundreds of pilgrims over the years. In the ground level is the Armenian chapel, where it’s said that Queen Helene found the cross in a stone quarry. The main focus from the main floor is in the centre of the Rotunda where the chapel called The Edicule is located, and which contains the Holy Sepulchre itself.
Nearby to the Edicule, is a large rock slab where tradition says is where the body of Jesus was cleaned and prepared for the lords burial, and where today you will find many Christians pilgrims in prayer. At the church there is a steep flight of stairs, where you will enter a colorful decorated room with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church alter where the site of the crucifixion is marked, and where you can take time for prayer and kneel and touch the very rock that is held sacred by millions of Christians.
While many Christians celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection at the Garden Tomb, where a tomb is still present in it’s garden, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an important stop to understand and learn about contemporary Christianity and it’s history which is both long and very complex. Experience the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on your Israel tour, located in the original second temple cave tomb, and the tomb of Jesus, which was destroyed in 1009 by Muslim Caliph Hakim, this area was covered up by the Edicule, a building completed in the Rotunda by the Russian Orthodox in the 19th century which at that time were a major force in the country and church.