The two most significant historical events for Christians are the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the redemption was made possible since the penalty for man’s sin was paid with the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God. Through Jesus’ resurrection, the victory over death was won and that victory could be imparted to those placing their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. These two monumental events secured eternal life for all who respond in faith.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher marks the traditional location of the place where Jesus died on the cross and the empty tomb from which Jesus arose. This location originally sat outside of the city wall but shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus a third wall was erected that enclosed the site inside the Old City of Jerusalem as it is today.
Inside the modern church is some exposed rock which tradition holds is where the cross was placed. This rock marks the place of Calvary or Golgotha where Jesus was nailed to and hung on the cross. An altar stands over the spot traditionally believed to be where the cross was placed and a hole gives access for visitors to actually touch the rock of Calvary. This chapel is controlled by the Greek Orthodox Church today.
Under the dome of the Rotunda, the traditional place where the tomb of Jesus sits is enshrined in a structure called the aedicule. Steps lead to a low door through which the small Chapel of the Holy sepulcher can be accessed which houses the tomb of Christ. A marble slab was later added to mark the spot where Jesus’s body was believed to be laid with a vase and candles marking where his head would have rested.
Other artifacts of interest include the Crusaders façade which was built sometime before 1180. The Stone of Unction is where tradition holds that Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Also on the grounds are the Chapel of the Agony of the Virgin, the Chapel of Adam, the Chapel of the Angel, the Coptic chapel, and the Syrian chapel. The church is primarily cared for by the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Church who all have an agreement as to which church can use the facilities at which time.
Through the years, the Church of the Holy sepulcher suffered great damage, neglect, deconstruction and reconstruction. From the Emperor Hadrian making a level foundation for a temple of Venus on the location in 135 AD to the Muslim leader al-Hakim gaining control of the area in 1009, churches on the site have been destroyed. The Crusades recaptured the site in 1099 and the Church was rebuilt by 1149. Further additions and remodeling have occurred throughout the years until the modern structure reached its current state. The large dome above the Rotunda was completed in the 1960’s with the image of a 12-pointed star decorating the dome added in 1997.
The traditional location of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus brings visitors from all around the world. Touching the traditional rock of Calvary and viewing the traditional empty tomb is a moving experience for all who have embraced Jesus as Savior.