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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the most sacred site in the world for millions of Christians. This is the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The church was built during the 4th century by the Emperor Constantine, who accepted Christianity and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. His mother, Saint Helena, toured the Holy Land and identified the sites in which the events mentioned in the New Testament took place. Helena identified this place as the Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. She also identified the burial plot of Joseph of Arimathea, who facilitated Jesus' burial after he was taken down from the cross. Lying within the boundaries of the church are the last stations in Jesus' Way of Grief- from the 9th to the 14th station.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tours
This is the first thing to do at Church of the Holy Sepulchre. From the entrance, begin your sightseeing tour by taking the steps that lead down the north side to the Greek Orthodox Chapel of Adam in which there is also a cleft in the rock. The chapel gets its name from the legend that Adam's skull was found under the Cross at Christ's crucifixion. On either side of the entrance are stone benches marking the site of the tombs of the first two rulers of the Crusader kingdom, Godfrey of Bouillon and Baldwin I. Their remains were removed by Muslims in the 13th century, and the tombs themselves were broken up by fanatical Greek monks in 1808. The appearance of the tombs is known from drawings made before their destruction - low columns supported saddle roofs that bore Latin inscriptions.
If you continue walking to the west, the next thing to do at Church of the Holy Sepulchre is passing the Stone of Unction on which Christ's body was said to be laid and anointed after his crucifixion, and the Armenian-controlled Place of the Three Mary's where holy women watched the anointing. From here, you arrive at the Rotunda containing the Holy Sepulchre (Christ's tomb). In front of the entrance are huge candelabra, and over the doorway hang 43 lamps (13 each belonging to the Greek, Latin, and Armenian churches, while four belong to the Copts). The structure of the tomb conceals the natural rock, which can only be seen in the Coptic Chapelto the rear of the Sepulchre.
On the south, west, and north sides of the Rotunda are semicircular conches. In the west conch, opposite the Coptic Chapel, is a Chapel of the Syrian Christians (Jacobites). In here, on the left, is the entrance to a rock-cut tomb. It is traditionally ascribed to Joseph of Arimathea, who also provided the tomb for Christ. It is still in its original condition, without marble cladding. The northern part of the Rotunda belongs to the Latins. The major point of interest here is the Chapel of the Franciscans, whose friary is immediately adjoining, and the Altar of Mary Magdalene. In the northern aisle are a number of columns of different periods, including richly decorated Corinthian columns from the original 4th-century church. These are known as the Arches of the Virgin, because the risen Christ is said to have appeared to his mother here. At the east end of the aisle is a small square chamber known without any historical basis as the Prison of Christ. This is a must thing to do at Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit for a tour at the church is early in the morning when it opens. Make sure you check your calendar for Christian holidays before going, it's always crowded on those days.
Will I Need a Guide?
No, you won't need a guide for a tour at the church. It's easy to get around and you can find everything on this website.
How To Get There?
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre sits approximately equal distance between Jaffa Gate and Damascus Gate. From central Jerusalem, take Egged Bus No 20, which runs from the central bus station to Jaffa Gate.