While the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is regarded by many as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial, it is not the only holy site in Jerusalem to make a legitimate claim to those events. Catholics and Orthodox denominations believe the Via Dolorosa, known also as 'The Way of the Cross', passes through the Old City of Jerusalem and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, within the Ottoman walls of the Old City.
However, just outside the walls of the Old City, near the Damascus Gate, is the Garden Tomb, a site that many historians, archeologists and religious leaders believe to be the true site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial & resurrection.
No matter what your beliefs about the true location of Jesus’ death, the Garden Tomb provides another tangible glimpse into the history of the life of Jesus that is related in numerous stories and writings throughout time.
History of the Garden Tomb
The Garden Tomb was first mentioned as the possible site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial only in the mid-1800s. While this may seem quite recent, consider the fact that before that time, modern archeology and the ability to measure and date artifacts and historical locations was far from an exact science. As people became more interested in trying to match the stories and locations in the Bible and Gospels to actual, physical sites, questions arose about whether the Church of the Holy Sepulchre could truly be the site of the crucifixion. Around 1882, a British man named General Charles Gordon began to write articles making a case for the tomb as the location of Golgotha, the “Skull Hill” mentioned in the New Testament. Subsequent examinations of the site lead to the contention that a number of factors made the site a viable contender for the place of the crucifixion of Christ.
The Tomb of Jesus - Garden Tomb Jerusalem
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What Makes the Garden Special?
A visit to the Garden Tomb will demonstrate a number of possible matches to the location of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus described in the Bible and Gospels:
- The site is located outside the walls of the Old City, near a gate and along a major street, as described in the Bible.
- The discovery of an ancient cistern and wine press demonstrate that the location was once a garden, as Jesus’ crucifixion site was described to be.
- There is a tomb in the garden and it is evident this tomb belonged to a rich man (perhaps Joseph of Arimathea, who according to the bible donated his tomb for the burial of Jesus)
- The entrance to the tomb is low; the Gospels describe how Jesus’ disciples had to stoop to enter.
- A deep ridge in front of the tomb suggests that a large, round stone was once rolled over the opening of the tomb to seal it. A similar large stone is described in the Gospels.
The care takers of the Garden Tomb make no absolute claims as to the events that may have happened there; they ask only that you come with an open mind and a willingness to view a beautiful site that helps imagine and reflect on Christ's crucifixion, burial & resurrection over 2000 years ago.