It is here where traditionally Orthodox and Catholic Christians celebrate and mark the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, Christian Evangelicals and other denominations explore the world of “historic churches,” described by many scholars. Six denominations in and around the cavernous house of worship are Christianity’s most ancient. Including the less known church of the Ethiopians, whom trace their origins to Christianity back to Philip’s conversion on the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-34).
While many Christians celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection at the Garden Tomb, where a tomb is still present in it’s garden, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a very important visit to understand and learn about contemporary Christianity and it’s history which is both long and very complex. Experience the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on your Christian tour to Israel, located in the original second temple cave tomb, and the tomb of Jesus, which was destroyed in 1009 by Muslim Caliph Hakim, this area was covered up by the Edicule, a building completed in the Rotunda by the Russian Orthodox in the 19th century which at that time were a major force in the country and church.
This church is known to be one of the most complicated buildings in existence. The foundation and first structure was in fact a pagan shrine built in the 2nd century by the emperor Hadrian, using stones from the ruined Temple to show Jews and Christians that the Roman empire was in charge of the country. Later Constantine the Great built the first church in the 4th century, extending across a couple of blocks in today’s Old City Christian Quarters.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you can descend a flight of stairs which walls are decorated by crosses carved by hundreds of pilgrims over decades and hundreds of years. In the ground level is the Armenian chapel, where it is said that Queen Helene found the cross in a stone quarry. The main focus from the main floor is the Edicule, where many pilgrims say they experience elevated spirituality from moments spent in the small room marking the traditional tomb.
Near to the Edicule, is a large stone slab where traditionally it is said that the body of Jesus was prepared for his burial, and where today you will see Orthodox and Catholic Christians in prayer. Continue up a steep flight of stairs, in a beautiful decorated room with a Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic altar where the site of the crucifixion is traditionally marked. Here you can kneel and touch the very rock which is held sacred, and move many Christians in great emotion.