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Church of the Holy Sepulchre
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, called Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis) by Eastern Christians, is a Christian church now within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The ground the church rests on is venerated by several non-protestant Christian sects as Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary, where the New Testament says that Jesus was crucified. It also is said to contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century.

The initial building was founded by Constantine I of the Roman Empire in 335, after he had removed a Roman temple on the site that was possibly the Temple of Aphrodite built by Hadrian. Constantine had sent his mother Helena to find the site; during excavations she is said to have discovered the True Cross. The church was built around the excavated hill of the Crucifixion, and was actually three connected churches built over the three different holy sites, including a great basilica (the Martyrium visited by the nun Egeria in the 380s), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) built around the traditional Rock of Calvary, and a rotunda, called the Anastasis ("Resurrection"), which contained the remains of the cave that Helena and Macarius had identified with the burial site of Jesus. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century.

This building was damaged by fire in 614 when the Persians under Khosrau II invaded Jerusalem and captured the Cross. In 630, Emperor Heraclius marched triumphantly into Jerusalem and restored the True Cross to the rebuilt Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Under the Muslims it remained a Christian church. The early Muslim rulers protected the city's Christian sites, prohibiting their destruction and their use as living quarters, but after a riot in 966, where the doors and roof were burnt, the original building was completely destroyed on October 18, 1009, by the "mad" Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who hacked out the foundations down to bedrock..

However, a series of small chapels was erected on the site by Constantine IX Monomachos in 1048 under stringent conditions imposed by the caliphate. The rebuilt sites were taken by the knights of the First Crusade on July 15, 1099. Crusader chief Godfrey of Bouillon, who became the first king of Jerusalem, decided not to use the title "king" during his lifetime, and declared himself Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri, "Protector (or Defender) of the Holy Sepulchre." The chronicler William of Tyre reports on the reconstruction. The Crusaders began to renovate the church in a Romanesque style and added a bell tower. These renovations unified the holy sites were completed during the reign of Queen Melisende 50 years later in 1149.

The church was an inspiration for churches in Europe like Santa Gerusalemme in Bologna.

The Franciscan monks renovated it further in 1555, as it had been neglected despite increased numbers of pilgrims. A fire severely damaged the structure again in 1808, causing the dome to collapse. The current dome dates from 1870. Extensive modern renovations began in 1959, including a redecoration of the dome from 1994-1997.

Several sects cooperate, sometimes acrimoniously, in the administration and maintenance of the church and its grounds, under a fiat of status quo that was issued by the Sublime Porte in 1852, to end the violent local bickering. The three, first appointed when Crusaders held Jerusalem, are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches. These remain the primary custodians of the church. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. An agreement regulates times and places of worship for each Church. For centuries, two neutral neighbour Muslim families appointed by Saladin, the Nuseibeh and Joudeh families, were the custodians of the key to the single door. When a fire broke out in 1840, dozens of pilgrims were trampled to death. On June 20, 1999, all the Christian denominations who share control agreed in a decision to install a new exit door in the church.

Table of contents
1 Current Configuration of the Holy Sepulchre
2 See also
3 External Links

Current Configuration of the Holy Sepulchre

In the center of the Holy Sepulchre Church, underneath the largest dome (recently renovated), lays the Holy Sepulchre itself (shared by all the sects). It is a red granite edifice, which contains a large amount of giant candles in the front of it. The Armenian Orthodox and Catholic monks say mass at times inside the Sepulchre. It is used for the Holy Saturday ceremony of the great fire. To its rear, within an ironwork cage-like structure, lies the altar used by the Coptic Orthodox. Past that, inside a rear, very rough hewned chapel, the Assyrian Orthodox celebrate their liturgies on Sundays. To the right of the sepulchre is the Roman Catholic area, which consists of a large square chapel and another private chapel for the Franciscan monks. Immediately in the front of the Sepulchre is what would be the main area of the church for the congregation, which has been walled off and used by the Greek Orthodox. It features a large iconostasis, and two thrones for the chanter and patriarch. Past that, there is the entrance area, which features the stone which Jesus' dead body was supposed to have been washed on. Up the stairs to the right of that area, is the most lavishly decorated part of the Church, the Chapel where Jesus was supposed to have been crucified. This area is run by the Armenian Orthodox, while the Roman Catholics have an altar to the side. Additionally, there is a subterranan Chapel also run by the Armenians, which commemorates the finding of the supposed real cross which was used to kill Jesus.

Many secular modern scholars believe that Calvary, also known as Golgotha, probably lies outside of Old Jerusalem. "Calvary" and "Golgotha" derive from the Latin and Aramaic words for skull. At a site outside of the Old City walls there is a rock formation that many contend resembles a skull, or did resemble a skull circa 30 AD.

See also

External Links