Marhaba and welcome to the heart of the holy city Jerusalem Al Quds. This mountain, Haram al- Sharif, Arabic for “Holy Mountain”, is considered the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. For Muslims, this is a major site of worship, contemplation and pilgrimage. On the peak of Haram Al-Sharif’s, its crown glory and great symbol of Islam glistens in the sun – the golden Dome of the Rock.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the church of the resurrection was constructed in 325 A.D. by Emperor Constantine. It was destroyed, rebuilt and altered many times in the course of history. Instead of luxurious architecture it bares 2,000 year old marks of damage. It is considered the holiest church in Christianity. In fact, the true beauty of this church lies in the painful events captured within its walls. Inside are four of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa. Here is where the most dramatic events in the life of Jesus took place: from his crucifixion and burial through his miraculous resurrection. For Christians all over the world, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered the high point of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
This area of the church, known as Calvary, or Golgotha, is traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus crucifixion and death. It is a major pilgrimage location and the most lavishly decorated part of the church. It is also the location of 3 of the stations of the Via Dolorosa.
At this site, marked as station 11 of the cross, there is an altar decorated in embossed silver, depicting the suffering of Jesus Above the altar there is a mosaic depicting the binding of Jesus to the cross using nails, and the women looking at him.
You are at the most important station in church. This is the spot of crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Marked as station 12 of the cross, this is the very place where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The rock can be seen under glass on both sides of the altar, and beneath the altar there is a hole said to be the place where the cross was raised. This is the most visited site in the Holy Sepulchre..
Here, at Station 13 of the cross, to your right, you can see an altar commemorating the place to which Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross, into his mother’s arms. This station captures the grief of a mother over her son, and is known as the Alter of Our Lady of Sorrows
The Chapel of Adam
This is the Chapel of Adam. According to tradition, it was here where Adam’s skull was buried and this site is also where Jesus crucifixion took place. It is believed that when Jesus took his last breath the rock of Golgotha split in half resulting in the crack seen through the window. The significance of the place is rooted in the tradition that this is the rock onto which Jesus’ blood dripped.
The Stone of Anointing
On the floor near the entrance lays the stone of anointing, also known as the stone of unction, which is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the church. According to tradition, the body of Jesus was laid on this stone after it was removed from the cross. The stone is believed to be the place where Jesus' body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Many believers prostrate themselves onto the rock, kiss it, and place personal objects on it so that those can absorb some of the site’s holiness.
Chapel of St. Helena
As you go down the stairs, you can see hundreds of small crosses that were made by medieval pilgrims. You have now reached the Chapel of St. Helena, which is dedicated to Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine and according to tradition, who discovered the cross during her visit in 326AD. This large, well-kept chapel has two apses. To your right is the altar dedicated to Saint Helena herself. Looking left, you can see the alter that is dedicated to St. Dimas, the Good Thief. The Armenians have re-named this chapel ‘’St. Gregory the Illuminator’’ in memory of their national patron. Looking down, you can see that the floor is decorated in a mosaic depicting the story of Noah’s Ark and various Armenian churches. You can also see an inscription in the memory of the fallen warriors of the Armenian Legion in 1917 and the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
The Finding of the Cross Chapel
At the lowest point of the church, 22 stairs from the chapel of Helena is the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. The marks of the original use of the chapel as a quarry can be seen on some of the exposed rock on the roof and walls. According to tradition, it was here, in that chapel which used to be a cave, that Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine has found the fragments of the cross. You can see a bronze statue of Helena, holding the cross.
The round hall we are now entering is the heart of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is called the Rotunda and is considered as the final station of the Via Dolorosa. Looking up, we can see the opening of the dome, and the sunlight shining through it, symbolizing the resurrection.
The tomb of Jesus is located inside the structure in the middle, which is called the "Edicule".
Behind, through a narrow doorway is the inner chamber. This is The Tomb of Jesus, where according to Christian belief, Jesus was buried and resurrected. Many Pilgrims are often seen waiting at the Edicule entrance, sometimes for hours, for their turn to enter the tomb for a short prayer
This great hall is the Catholicon. Here is where the large masses are held, and where the patriarchs of Jerusalem are chosen. It is considered the center of the universe and the large chalice shaped stone on its floor is the Omphalos, the naval of the world. Looking above us, we can see the smaller dome of the church, its mosaic depicts Jesus in the center and Matthew, Marc, Luke and John at his 4 corners.