The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

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The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the main shrine and since the 4th century a place of pilgrimage for Christians around the world. It is a complex of buildings that were erected on the site of Calvary (Golgotha), where, according to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The last five standings of the Way of the Cross of Jesus Christ are under the arches of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The temple is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Christian quarter. The complex of religious buildings also serves as the headquarters of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church, which is based here in administrative buildings.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher survived an earthquake in 1545 and a fire in 1808. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is jointly owned and managed by several Christian denominations according to a complex scheme established many centuries ago.

All main and secondary premises are strictly divided between (Armenian, Syrian, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Coptic and Ethiopian churches). All property, as well as territorial rights, were enshrined in the relevant agreements several centuries ago.

Orthodox, Armenians, and Catholics alternately serve the liturgy at the Holy Sepulcher. Every year in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a ceremony of the descent of the Holy Fire takes place, which is broadcast throughout the world and is of great importance to all believers.

On March 22, 2017, after a 9-month restoration, the renewed Kuvukliya with the Holy Sepulcher was opened.

Exterior decoration


The main facade is located on the south side of the temple and is made in the Romanesque style of the XII century. There is an entrance with two large doors, of which only one is open, the second was closed with masonry during Muslim rule.

Once there were picturesque bas-reliefs, today they are kept in the Jerusalem Museum.

Chapel of the Francs

To the right of the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the Chapel of the Franks, which once had a separate entrance to Calvary.

Here is the grave of the knight Philip d’Abigne, who accompanied Frederick II during a trip to Jerusalem in the 13th century.

Under the Chapel of the Franks is an inconspicuous door to the chapel of Mary of Egypt. To the right is the door to the Armenian chapel up. John.

Temple Keys

In order to avoid contention between faiths, according to tradition, the keys to the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher since 638 have been transferred for permanent storage to the Arab family of Judy, and the right to unlock the keys every day with the keys to the Nuseyba family. This privilege has been handed down from father to son for many centuries for nine centuries.

Immovable staircase

The wooden ladder reminds of the differences between the faiths, with the lower end resting against the cornice of the Greek part of the temple, and the upper against the window of the Armenian part. It was installed for easy access of the monks to the upper floors, but at what time is unknown.

On the outer wall, there is a wooden ladder – evidence of strict observance of ancient traditions and the agreement (Status quo) that no element of the temple can be changed without a unanimous decision. It is still called “immovable.”

Dissected Column and Holy Fire

The second reminder of the feud between faiths is the Dissected Column. This is one of the pillars of the entrance, which was split by lightning during the convergence of the Holy Fire in 1634. On this day, a debate arose between Orthodox and Armenian Christians over who has the right to be the first to conduct the service. During these bickering, a flash of powerful lightning struck from a thundercloud, which broke the column.

Internal organization

The temple includes three main parts: the chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, the Church of the Resurrection, and the Temple at Calvary.

Calvary (Golgotha)

Steps to the right lead to Golgotha ​​after entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Catholic and Orthodox chapels are located above Calvary, under the last altar there is a hole in the ground, indicated by a silver circle where the cross stood. Through this hole, you can touch Calvary with your palm. Two black circles indicate the places where the crosses of the prudent and insane robbers stood, executed with Jesus Christ.

There is a legend that, Adam, the ancestor of the human race, expelled from Paradise due to the fall and transmitted sinfulness to the entire human race, was buried under the Golgotha.

Directly beneath Golgotha ​​is the chapel of Adam. The cleft formed during the earthquake, through which the blood of Jesus seeped together with rainwater and washed the skull of Adam. In the nearby Greek Orthodox Church, a part of the cross is kept, on which Jesus died in agony.

The altar of the Stand of Our Lady during the crucifixion of Jesus is located on Calvary, between the Catholic and Orthodox thrones (“Stabat Mater Dolorosa” – stood the Sorrowful Mother).

Anointing stone

Joseph and Nicodemus removed the body from the cross, laid it on the Anointing Stone, anointed it with myrrh and aloe, and wrapped it in a shroud.

Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned by all four Evangelists as a rich but kind man who accepted the faith of Jesus and, after execution, begged Pilate to give him the body of Christ.

Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea

The burial place of Joseph of Arimathea is located in the western part of the Temple. The entrance to the chapel is opposite the Coptic chapel, on the back side of the entrance to Kuvukliya. In a small room is the altar, damaged during a fire in 1808. On the right is the entrance to a small cave – the burial place of Sts. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

Kuvukliya and the Holy Sepulcher

Above the Holy Sepulcher stands a marble chapel – Kuvukliya, in which on Holy Saturday the Holy Fire is kindled. It consists of two parts – the chapel of the Angel and the cave of the Holy Sepulcher.

Until March 22, 2017, Kuvuklia was externally reinforced with a metal screed, since the structure was exposed to earthquake and fire.

Coptic chapel

It is no coincidence that the Coptic chapel is located on the back of Kuvuklia, where only the wall with a small hole in Kuvuklia separates it from the Holy Sepulcher. It is believed that the Coptic chapel is located exactly where the head of Jesus was located after the burial.

Finding the Cross

In the aisle of the Finding of the Cross, a marble slab is installed indicating the place where the cross was found.

The cross was found by St. Queen Helen in 325. The search led her to Calvary. Here the queen sat and threw coins into the landfill in order to increase the zeal of the workers for excavation. At this place were found three crosses with nails and a wooden tablet with the inscription INRI (Jesus of Nazareth, King of Judea). In the Church of the Holy Sepulcher there is a chapel of St. Helen.

The Navel of the Earth

Directly opposite the entrance to Kuvukliya, there is a chained stone vase called the “Navel of the Earth”.

The navel of the Earth symbolizes the center of the spiritual aspirations of Christians around the world for the main shrine – the place of the last events of Christ’s life, the place of his death and resurrection.

Shrine Management

The Catholics are in charge of the Altar of Nails, the Church of the Appearance of the Risen Lord of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the northern part of the second tier of the Rotunda and the gallery, the southern limit of Golgotha, the throne of Magdalene, the chapel of the Cross, and the Franciscan monastery.

Temple of Helena, 8 columns of the Rotunda, the southern part of its second tier, the throne of the Myrrh-bearing women and also Kivorii of the three Marys, the chapel of Vardan, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea belong to the Armenian church.

Western Altar of Kuvuklia is under the authority of the Coptic Church. Ethiopian Church – The Church of the Four Apostles, a monastery on top of the Temple of Helen. The Syrian church has the right to conduct its services on holidays and Sundays in the Armenian limit of Nicodemus.

The general management of all parts of the shrine, Kuvukliya, and the Catholicon, belongs to the Jerusalem Orthodox Church.

Restoration work

On March 22, 2017, restoration work was completed on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the renovated church was officially opened.

A group of Greek restorers led by architect Anthony Moropulo worked for nine months and focused on strengthening and preserving Kuvuklia.

This is the first restoration work since 1810, when the temple was rebuilt and rebuilt after a fire. The work became possible after reaching an agreement between the Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian-Gregorian faiths, which are responsible for the maintenance of Kuvuklia. All six Christian denominations sharing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, as well as the Jordanian King Abdullah, contributed $ 4 million in funds.

Since July 2016, 50 specialists from Athens have been working in the temple, who previously restored the Acropolis in the Greek capital and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

In October 2016, for the first time in 450 years, scientists removed a slab from a burial bed in Kuvuklia, which appeared there in 1555 to protect the stone from pilgrims. After cleaning, the bed was again covered with a marble slab.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

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