35 – Church of the Holy Sepulchre

If your stomach turned to watch all the vain works and excessive indulgences in the movie Luther, you’ll not want to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s gaudy, excessive and reeks to high heaven of worshiping the created instead of the Creator. Unfortunately, there’s good reason to believe that Jesus was crucified nearby, so your normal tour of Israel should include this stop.

Also referred to as the Church of the Resurrection, this church rests on what most believe is Golgotha, as well as the place where Christ was buried. Today, the church serves as the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Catholic Archpriest of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.

By the time Constantine came around in 325, it had already been known to be the place where Christ was crucified, but had been covered up in dirt. He ordered it to be unburied and a church built on the site. Helena, Constantine’s mother, is the one credited with finding the (hold your breath) TRUE CROSS. Amazing how one woman found so many TRUE RELICS! I guess it pays to have a good tour guide.

Constantine’s church was actually three connected churches built over the three different holy sites: 1) a great basilica 2) the Triportico – an atrium built around the traditional Rock of Calvary, and 3) the Anastasis – a rotunda which contained the remains of the cave that Helena had identified as the burial site of Jesus. The surrounding rock was cut away, and the Tomb was encased in a structure called the Edicule (“small building”) in the center of the rotunda. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century. (Helena was a busy girl!)

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Some people just have more character in their facial features.This was taken out in the “front yard” of the church.
If you want to find some funny historical information, check out the ladder on that 2nd-floor balcony of the church (very center of this photo) and Google it. That ladder has been there since before 1850!
Jesus was hung right .. HERE .. and you can touch a piece of the original Calvary! Why they put it under a table like that, I don’t know.


Or instead of touching the stone, you can have your photo taken.
Behold: the original slab upon which Jesus’ body was wrapped for burial. I appreciate Helena’s enthusiasm, but sometimes it’s just a bit too much. What was really sad to see was all the people that would come in and kiss the stone and lay out personal belongings on the stone in order to receive an extra special blessing on their personal belongings. Folks! If you’re a believer, Jesus is in your HEART, not on that slab!
Lots of people liked to burn candles on the Edicule. But the Edicule is made out of wood – it seems. You figure it’s just got to be a matter of time till a fire gets out of control.
There was a huge line for the Edicule. Lots of people anxious to see remains of the tomb that held our Savior. Part of me was tempted to holler out and spoil the surprise for them: “Hey, GUYS!! The tomb is EMPTY, for He is RISEN!”
The rotunda didn’t have much lighting. But it did have this cool skylight. The sun was blasting through it and creating quite a neat effect. Took me several shots to strike a good balance between having enough ambient light to see the ceiling and the Edicule yet not so much light that it drowned out the light coming in through the skylight. It was a bit more dramatic than this shot.
Here’s the Edicule.
I forget what this was. Some other shrine that people kept bowing to and kissing, I’m sure.
When we left the church, we walked along the streets and were surprised to see many of the shops were closed. Here’s how they would barricade their shops.
We found out why those shops were empty. A mosque had just finished services and suddenly the streets were jam packed with hundreds of people as the worshippers walked to wherever it was that they needed to go to (back to their shops, I’m sure).We were walking in the opposite direction of the crowd. I felt like a fish swimming upstream.