“And they brought him to the place called Golgotha…
And they crucified him, and divided his garments among
them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.
And it was the third hour, when they crucified him”.
(Mark 15, 22-25)
“… And taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud,
and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock;
and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
Mary Magdalena and Mary the mother of Jesus saw where he
was laid”. (Mark 15, 46-47)
The Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher contains both Calvary hill,
known as the Golgotha, and the aedicule of the Tomb of Jesus.
It is one of the most sacred places to Christianity and pilgrims from all over the world yearn to visit this church.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, the place of
crucifixion and his empty tomb became a place of worship.
The first believers, in the 1st and 2nd century came and prayed
on the spot.
The Emperor Hadrian tried to erase the new cult by building
a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite.
Only when Saint Helen came to Jerusalem, at the beginning of
the 4th century, the first church was built.
It was much different than what it is today: almost double the
size with two open cloisters, one served as the main entrance
from the main street and the other contained Calvary hill with
the true cross. A huge basilica starched between the two
cloisters and above the tomb a round Chapel called the Rotunda.
The church was partially destroyed and rebuilt, a few years
after the East-West Schism several of times until the 11th century.
So when the Oriental or Byzantine church gave the money to repair the structure,
the Vatican (Catholic-Latin church) wanted to liberate the city from the Muslims hands.
In 1099 the European knights concurred the city of Jerusalem.
The church we see today is the same church that was consecrated 50
years later, being built half of the size of the original Byzantine Church.
The crusaders closed the Calvary hill and the cloister with a dome
and they repaired the dome above the empty tomb.
Many small spaces were built, each Chapel dedicated to a different
event or figure in the last moments of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
According to pilgrim’s descriptions even then, 12th century,
clergy from the different Christian communities prayed in the different
chapels, more or less today’s situation. During the crusader period
the church served as the burial Chapel of the royal dynasty.
After Saladin took over the city he decided to not demolish the church.
During the 13th century the Emperor Fredric II signed a peace
agreement that the church would pass to the Christians for a few years.
During these years the opening and closing of the gates were under the responsibility of two Muslim families,
and still are to this day.
Six different Christian communities pray in the church and
take care of the interior and the open terraces of the church:
Catholic, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Ethiopian and Syrian.
Each one has its own time, own liturgy and own space in complex
of the Holy Sepulcher. The most recent Status quo agreement
was signed in the second half of the 19th century in the presence
of the Ottoman Emperor and it still valid today.
Every community can renovate or restore its own chapels,
but when it comes to the public spaces the problems begin.
There is one famous item that demonstrates the disagreement
between two of the churches:
The immovable ladder is lining on a balcony that belongs
to the Greek Orthodox Church on a window that belongs
to the Armenian Church.
Till they won’t resolve their conflict it will remain present on the façade of the basilica.
Calvary or Golgotha hill, Stone of Anointing, Chapel of Saint Helen, Chapel of the True Cross,
Garden Tomb, Rotunda and Aedicule of the Tomb, Chapel of Joseph of Arimathea.