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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Domes and cropped bell tower of Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem covers what Christians believe is the site of the most important event in human history: The place where Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

But the pilgrim who looks for the hill of Calvary and a tomb cut out of rock in a garden nearby will be disappointed.

• At first sight, the church may bring on a sense of anticlimax. Looking across a hemmed-in square, there is the shabby façade of a dun-coloured, Romanesque basilica with grey domes and a cut-off belfry.

• Inside, there is a bewildering conglomeration of 30-plus chapels and worship spaces. These are encrusted with the devotional ornamentation of several Christian rites.

This sprawling Church of the Holy Sepulchre displays a mish-mash of architectural styles. It bears the scars of fires and earthquakes, deliberate destruction and reconstruction down the centuries. It is often gloomy and usually thronging with noisy visitors.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre from above, huddled in by surrounding buildings (Ilan Arad / Wikimedia)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre from above, huddled in by surrounding buildings (Ilan Arad / Wikimedia)

Yet it remains a living place of worship. Its ancient stones are steeped in prayer, hymns and liturgies. It bustles daily with fervent rounds of incensing and processions.

This is the pre-eminent shrine for Christians, who consider it the holiest place on earth. And it attracts pilgrims by the thousand, all drawn to pay homage to their Saviour, Jesus Christ.

 

Church replaced pagan temple

Early Christians venerated the site. Then the emperor Hadrian covered it with a pagan temple.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Parvis (courtyard) of Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Seetheholyland.net)

Only in AD 326 was the first church begun by the emperor Constantine I. He tore down the pagan temple and had Christ’s tomb cut away from the original hillside. Tradition says his mother, St Helena, found the cross of Christ in a cistern not far from the hill of Calvary.

Constantine’s church was burned by Persians in 614, restored, destroyed by Muslims in 1009 and partially rebuilt. Crusaders completed the reconstruction in 1149. The result is essentially the church that stands today.

Making sense of the church

Of all the Christian holy places, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is probably the most difficult for pilgrims to come to terms with.

To help make sense of it, this article deals with the church’s major elements and its authenticity. A further article, Church of the Holy Sepulchre chapels, deals with its other devotional areas.

1. The main access to the church, on its south side, is from the Souk el-Dabbagha, a street of shops selling religious souvenirs. Visitors enter the left-hand doorway (the right one was blocked up by Muslim conquerors in the 12th century).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Climbing steps to Calvary (Seetheholyland.net)

2. Instead of following tourists into the often-gloomy interior, immediately turn hard right and ascend a steep and curving flight of stairs. You are now ascending the “hill” of Calvary (from the Latin) or Golgotha (from the Aramaic), both words meaning “place of the skull”. The stairs open on to a floor that is level with the top of the rocky outcrop on which Christ was crucified. It is about 4.5 metres above the ground floor.

3. Immediately on the right is a window looking into a small worship space called the Chapel of the Franks. Here the Tenth Station of the Cross (Jesus is stripped of his garments) is located.

On the floor of Calvary are two chapels side by side, Greek Orthodox on the left, Catholic on the right. They illustrate the vast differences in liturgical decoration between Eastern and Western churches.

4. The Catholic Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross is the site of the Eleventh Station of the Cross (Jesus is nailed to the cross). On its ceiling is a 12th-century medallion of the Ascension of Jesus — the only surviving Crusader mosaic in the building.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Crucifixion (Seetheholyland.net)

5. The much more ornate Greek Chapel of the Crucifixion is the Twelfth Station (Jesus dies on the cross). Standing here, it is easy to understand a little girl’s remark, quoted by the novelist Evelyn Waugh in 1951: “I never knew Our Lord was crucified indoors.”

6. Between the two chapels, a Catholic altar of Our Lady of Sorrows commemorates the Thirteenth Station (Jesus is taken down from the cross).

7. A silver disc beneath the Greek altar marks the place where it is believed the cross stood. The limestone rock of Calvary may be touched through a round hole in the disc. On the right, under glass, can be seen a fissure in the rock. Some believe this was caused by the earthquake at the time Christ died. Others suggest that the rock of Calvary was left standing by quarrymen because it was cracked.

8. Another flight of steep stairs at the left rear of the Greek chapel leads back to the ground floor.

9. To the left is the Stone of Anointing, a slab of reddish stone flanked by candlesticks and overhung by a row of eight lamps.

Stone of Anointing from above (Seetheholyland.net)

Stone of Anointing from above (Seetheholyland.net)

Kneeling pilgrims kiss it with great reverence, although this is not the stone on which Christ’s body was anointed. This devotion is recorded only since the 12th century. The present stone dates from 1810.

10. On the wall behind the stone is a Greek mosaic depicting (from right to left) Christ being taken down from the cross, his body being prepared for burial, and his body being taken to the tomb.

11. Continuing away from Calvary, the Rotunda of the church opens up on the right, surrounded by massive pillars and surmounted by a huge dome. Its outer walls date back to the emperor Constantine’s original basilica built in the 4th century. The dome is decorated with a starburst of tongues of light, with 12 rays representing the apostles.

12. In the centre is a stone edicule (“little house”), its entrance flanked by rows of huge candles. This is the Tomb of Christ, the Fourteenth Station of the Cross.

This stone monument encloses the tomb (sepulchre) where it is believed Jesus Christ lay buried for three days — and where he rose from the dead. A high-tech photogrammetric survey late in the 20th century showed that the present edicule contains the remains of three previous structures, each encasing the previous one, like a set of Russian dolls.

The Edicule after restoration in 2017 (Ben Gray / ELCJHL)

The Edicule after restoration in 2017 (Ben Gray / ELCJHL)

13. At busy times, Greek Orthodox priests control admission to the edicule. Inside there are two chambers. In the outer one, known as the Chapel of the Angel, stands a pedestal containing what is believed to be a piece of the rolling stone used to close the tomb.

14. A very low doorway leads to the tomb chamber, lined with marble and hung with holy pictures. On the right, a marble slab covers the rock bench on which the body of Jesus lay. It is this slab which is venerated by pilgrims, who customarily place religious objects and souvenirs on it.

The slab was deliberately split by order of the Franciscan custos (guardian) of the Holy Land in 1555, lest Ottoman Turks should steal such a fine piece of marble.

An agreement between the major Christian communities at the church enabled work to begin in May 2016 to reinforce and restore the edicule. The work was undertaken by a team of scientists from the National Technical University of Athens.

Inside the restored tomb chamber, with the window exposing the rock wall of the burial cave at left (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Inside the restored tomb chamber, with the window exposing the rock wall of the burial cave at left (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

In October 2016 the team removed the marble slab, exposing a layer of fill material covering another slab of marble with a small Crusader cross etched on it. Beneath it was the bench on which the body of Jesus lay.

When the team restored the marble cladding and resealed the burial bed, they also cut a small window into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the limestone walls of the burial cave.

The multi-million-dollar restoration was completed in March 2017. The reddish-cream marble of the edicule emerged cleaned of centuries of grime, dust and soot from candle smoke, and freed from a grid of iron girders that had held it together since 1947.

But scientists warned that even more work would be necessary to shore up the unstable foundations of the shrine and the surrounding rotunda to avoid the risk of collapse.

Three denominations share ownership

Ownership of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared between the Greek Orthodox, Catholics (known in the Holy Land as Latins) and Armenian Orthodox.

The Greeks (who call the basilica the Anastasis, or Church of the Resurrection) own its central worship space, known as the Katholikon or Greek choir. The Armenians own the underground Chapel of St Helena which they have renamed in honour of St Gregory the Illuminator.

Katholikon (or Greek choir), the central worship space in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Seetheholyland.net)

The Catholics own the Franciscan Chapel of the Apparition (which commemorates the tradition that the risen Christ first appeared to his Mother) and the deep underground Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.

Three minor Orthodox communities, Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian, have rights to use certain areas. The Ethiopian monks live in a kind of African village on the roof, called Deir es-Sultan.

The rights of possession and use are spelt out by a decree, called the Status Quo, originally imposed by the Ottoman Turks in 1757. It even gives two Muslim families the sole right to hold the key and open and close the church — a tradition that dates back much further, to 1246.

 

Ladder symbolises Status Quo

Each religious community guards its rights jealously. The often-uneasy relationship laid down by the Status Quo is typified by a wooden ladder resting on a cornice above the main entrance and leaning against a window ledge.

Chapel of the Finding of the Cross (Seetheholyland.net)

Chapel of the Finding of the Cross (Seetheholyland.net)

The ladder has been there so long that nobody knows how it got there. Various suggestions have been offered: It was left behind by a careless mason or window-cleaner; it had been used to supply food to Armenian monks locked in the church by the Turks; it had served to let the Armenians use the cornice as a balcony to get fresh air and sunshine rather than leave the church and pay an Ottoman tax to re-enter it.

The ladder appears in an engraving of the church dated 1728, and it was mentioned in the 1757 edict by Sultan Abdul Hamid I that became the basis for the Status Quo.

Immovable ladder on ledge over entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Seetheholyland.net)

It would be too much to expect that the ladder seen today has resisted the elements since early in the 18th century. In fact the original has been replaced at least once.

In 1997 the ladder suddenly disappeared for some weeks, after a Protestant prankster hid it behind an altar. When it was discovered and returned, a steel grate was installed over the lower parts of both windows above the entrance. And in 2009 the ladder mysteriously appeared against the left window for a day.

The ladder, window and cornice are all in the possession of the Armenian Orthodox. And because the ladder was on the cornice when the Status Quo began in 1757, it must remain there.

 

Archaeology supports authenticity

Visitors may easily be disillusioned by the church’s contrasting architectural styles, its pious ornamentation and its competing liturgies.

If these man-made elements could be removed, as biblical scholar John J. Kilgallen has written, “we would stand between two places not more than 30 yards [90 feet] apart, with dirt and rock and grass under our feet and the open air all around us. Such was the original state of this area before Jesus died and was buried here.”

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Inside the Tomb of Christ (© Adriatikus)

But is this the place where Christ died and was buried? “Very probably, Yes,” declares biblical scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor in his Oxford Archaeological Guide The Holy Land. Eusebius, the first Church historian (in the 4th century), says the site was venerated by the early Christian community.

And the Israeli scholar Dan Bahat, former city archaeologist of Jerusalem, says: “We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus’ burial, but we have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site.”

One major objection raised is that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is inside the city walls, while the Gospels say the crucifixion took place outside. Archaeologists have confirmed that the site of the church was outside the city until about 10 years after Christ’s death, when a new wall was built.

Some favour a competing site, the Garden Tomb. Though it offers a more serene environment, the tombs in its area predate the time of Christ by several centuries.

Further article:

Church of the Holy Sepulchre chapels, dealing with the other devotional areas.

 

In Scripture:

The crucifixion: Matthew 27:27-56; Mark 15:16-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37

The burial of Jesus: Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42

The Resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10

Administered by: Confraternity of the Holy Sepulchre (Greek Orthodox), Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (Catholic), Brotherhood of St James (Armenian Orthodox)

Tel.: 972-2-6267000

Opens: Apr-Sep 4am, Oct-Mar 5am. Closes: Apr-Aug 8pm, Mar and Sep 7.30pm, Oct-Feb 7pm.  Sunday morning liturgies are usually: Coptic 4am, Catholic 5.30am, Greek Orthodox 7am, Syriac Orthodox 8am; Armenian Orthodox 8.45am on alternating Sundays with a weekly procession at 4.15pm.

 

 

References:
Bahat, Dan: “Does the Holy Sepulchre Church Mark the Burial of Jesus?” (Biblical Archaeology Review, May-June 1986)
Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Benelli, Carla, and Saltini, Tommaso (eds): The Holy Sepulchre: The Pilgrim’s New Guide (Franciscan Printing Press, 2011).
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Cohen, Raymond: Saving the Holy Sepulchre: How Rival Christians Came Together to Rescue their Holiest Shrine (Oxford University Press, 2008)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Hadid, Diaa: “Risk of Collapse at Jesus’ Tomb Unites Rival Christians” (New York Times, April 6, 2016)
Herman, Danny: “Who Moved the Ladder?” (Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2010).
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Notley, R. Steven: Jerusalem: City of the Great King (Carta Jerusalem, 2015)
Powers, Tom: “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Some perspectives from history, geography, architecture, archaeology and the New Testament” (Artifax, Autumn 2004-Spring 2005)
Prag, Kay: Jerusalem: Blue Guide (A. & C. Black, 1989)
Simmermacher, Günther: The Holy Land Trek: A Pilgrim’s Guide (Southern Cross Books, 2012).
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)
Waugh, Evelyn: “The Plight of the Holy Places” (Life, December 24, 1951.
Wright, J. Robert: “Holy Sepulchre” (Holy Land, spring 1998)

External links:

Holy Sepulchre (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Wikipedia)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Sacred Destinations)
Holy Sepulchre (Franciscan Cyberspot)
Holy Sepulchre (Christus Rex)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre panorama (Jesus in Jerusalem)
The Church and the Ladder: Frozen in Time (James E. Lancaster)
Unsealing of Christ’s reputed tomb turns up new revelations (National Geographic)
Jesus’ tomb reopens in Jerusalem after multi-million dollar restoration (Haaretz)
Tomb of Christ at Risk of ‘Catastrophic’ Collapse (National Geographic)

Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa

First Station: Pilgrims carry a cross through the courtyard of the Al-Omariyyeh College (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Chapel of the Flagellation

Chapel of the Condemnation

Ecce Homo Arch

 

Every Friday afternoon hundreds of Christians join in a procession through the Old City of Jerusalem, stopping at 14 Stations of the Cross as they identify with the suffering of Jesus on his way to crucifixion.

Their route is called the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). This is also the name of the principal street they follow, a narrow marketplace abustle with traders and shoppers, most likely similar to the scene on the first Good Friday.

It is unlikely that Jesus followed this route on his way to Calvary. Today’s Via Dolorosa originated in pious tradition rather than in certain fact, but it is hallowed by the footsteps of the faithful over centuries.

 

Franciscans lead procession

Via Dolorosa

First Station: Franciscan friars begin the Friday observance in the courtyard of the Al-Omariyyeh College (Seetheholyland.net)

The Friday procession is led by Franciscan friars, custodians of most of the holy places since the 13th century.

It starts at 4pm — 3pm in winter, from late October till late March — at an Islamic college, Umariyya School, just inside St Stephen’s or Lions’ Gate. Pilgrims wind their way westward to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the last five Stations are located.

Each procession is accompanied by Muslim escorts, in Ottoman uniforms of red fez, gold-embroidered waistcoat and baggy blue trousers, who signify their authority by banging silver-topped staves on the ground.

Many other pilgrims, individually or in groups with guides, follow the same 500-metre route during the week.

Via Dolorosa

Route of the Via Dolorosa (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

For those walking the Via Dolorosa on their own, the route is not easy to follow.

A simple map is available from the Christian Information Centre, Omar Ibn el-Khattab Square, Jaffa Gate (closed on Sundays, Christian holidays and Saturday afternoons). The PlanetWare travel guide also has a map.

 

Number of Stations has varied

While scholars disagree on the path Jesus took on Good Friday, processions in the 4th and 5th centuries from the Mount of Olives to Calvary followed more or less along the route taken by modern pilgrims (but there were no stops for Stations).

The practice of following the Stations of the Cross appears to have developed in Europe among Christians who could not travel to the Holy Land. The number of Stations varied from 7 to 18 or more.

Today’s Via Dolorosa route was established in the 18th century, with the present 14 Stations, but some of the Stations were given their present location only in the 19th century.

Via Dolorosa

Bronze discs mark Stations on the Via Dolorosa; the crossed arms are a Franciscan symbol (Seetheholyland.net)

Nine of the 14 stations are based on Gospel references. The other five — Jesus’ three falls, his meeting with his Mother, and Veronica wiping his face — are traditional.

 

Place of judgement unknown

The chief difficulty in determining Jesus’ path to Calvary is that nobody knows the site of Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium, where Jesus was condemned to death and given the crossbeam of his cross to carry through the streets.

There are three possible locations:

Herod the Great’s Palace or Citadel, which dominated the Upper City. The remains of the Citadel complex, with its Tower of David (erected long after King David’s time), are just inside the present Jaffa Gate. This is the most likely location.

Via Dolorosa

Second Station: Ecce Homo Arch over Via Dolorosa, with Sisters of Zion convent at right (Seetheholyland.net)

• The Antonia Fortress, a vast military garrison built by Herod the Great north of the Temple compound and with a commanding view of the Temple environs. The Umariyya School, now the location of the first Station of the Cross, is believed to stand on part of its site.

• The Palace of the Hasmoneans, built before Herod’s time to house the rulers of Judea. It was probably located midway between Herod’s Palace and the Temple, in what is today the Jewish Quarter.

In the immediate area of the Antonia Fortress is the Ecce Homo Arch, reaching across the Via Dolorosa. It is named after the famous phrase (“Behold the Man” in Latin) spoken by Pilate when he showed the scourged Jesus to the crowd (John 19:5). But the arch was built after Jesus stood before Pilate.

Adjacent to the arch is the Ecce Homo Convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Zion (the entrance is near the corner of the Via Dolorosa and a narrow alley called Adabat el-Rahbat, or The Nuns Ascent).

Via Dolorosa

Second Station: Roman soldiers’ game in Lithostrotos pavement under Zion Sisters convent (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

Underneath the convent, pilgrims can visit stone pavings which were once claimed to be the Stone Pavement (Lithostrotos) where Pilate had his judgement seat (John 19:13).

Markings in the paving stones, indicating a dice game known as the King’s Game, suggested this was where Jesus was mocked by the soldiers (John 19:2-3). Yet this pavement is also from a later date.

Chapels worth visiting

Several of the chapels at the various Stations of the Cross are not often open to the public. Two at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa are open daily (8-12am, 2-5pm) and are worth visiting before starting the Way of the Cross.

Across the street from Umariyya School is a Franciscan compound containing the Chapel of the Flagellation and the Chapel of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross.

Via Dolorosa

Second Station: Jesus takes up his cross, in Chapel of the Condemnation (Tom Callinan/Seetheholyland.net)

The Chapel of the Flagellation is notable for its stained-glass windows behind the altar and on either side of the sanctuary. They show Pilate washing his hands; Jesus being scourged; and Barabbas expressing joy at his release. On the ceiling above the altar, a mosaic on a golden background depicts the crown of thorns pierced by stars.

The Flagellation Museum, displaying archaeological artifacts from several Holy Land sites, including Nazareth, Capernaum and the Mount of Olives, is open daily (except Sunday and Monday), 9am-1pm and 2-4pm.

The Chapel of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross is topped by five white domes. Artwork includes papier-mâché figures enacting some of the events of Jesus’ Passion.

Paving stones at the back of the chapel are part of the pavement that extends under the Ecce Homo Convent.

Via Dolorosa

Third Station: Relief depicting Jesus’ first fall (Seetheholyland.net)

Opposite the chapel entrance is a model of Jerusalem in the first century AD, showing how the sites of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre were outside the city walls.

 

The 14 Stations

Numbering of the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa traditionally uses Roman numerals:

I: Jesus is condemned to death

Via Dolorosa

Fourth Station: Sculpture depicting Jesus meeting his Mother (Seetheholyland.net)

About 300 metres west of St Stephen’s or Lions’ Gate, steps lead up to the courtyard of Umariyya School (open Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 2.30-6pm, Friday 2.30-4pm; entry with caretaker’s permission).

Here the First Station is commemorated. The southern end of the courtyard offers a view overlooking the Temple Mount.

II: Jesus carries his cross

Across the street, near where an arch stretches over the Via Dolorosa, the Second Station is marked by the words “II Statio” on the wall of the Franciscan Friary.

III: Jesus falls the first time

Down the Via Dolorosa, under the Ecce Homo Arch and about 100 metres along, a sharp left turn into Al-Wad Road brings pilgrims to a small chapel on the left, belonging to the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate.

Via Dolorosa

Fifth Station: Pilgrims on the Way of the Cross (Seetheholyland.net)

Above the entrance, a stone relief of Jesus falling with his cross marks the Third Station. Inside, a similar image is watched by shocked angels.

IV: Jesus meets his Mother

The Fourth Station is now commemorated adjacent to the Third Station. Until 2008 this Station was commemorated a further 25 metres along Al-Wad Road.

The stone relief marking the Station is over the doorway to the courtyard of an Armenian Catholic church. In the crypt are a strikingly attractive adoration chapel and part of a mosaic floor from a 5th-century church. In the centre of the mosaic is depicted a pair of sandals, said to represent the spot where the suffering Mary was standing.

Via Dolorosa

Sixth Station: Column imbedded in wall recalls tradition that Veronica wiped Jesus’ face here (Seetheholyland.net)

V: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

About 25 metres further along Al-Wad Road, the Via Dolorosa turns right. At the corner, the lintel over a doorway bears a Latin inscription marking the site where Simon, a visitor from present-day Libya, became involved in Jesus’ Passion.

The Franciscan chapel here, dedicated to Simon the Cyrenian, is on the site of the Franciscans’ first house in Jerusalem, in 1229.

VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The Via Dolorosa now becomes a narrow, stepped street as it wends its way uphill. About 100 metres on the left, a wooden door with studded metal bands indicates the Greek Catholic (Melkite) Church of St Veronica.

According to tradition, the face of Jesus was imprinted on the cloth she used to wipe it. A cloth described as Veronica’s veil is reported to have been kept in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome since the 8th century.

VII: Jesus falls the second time

Via Dolorosa

Seventh Station: Relief depicting Jesus’ second fall, in one of the chapels at the Station (Seetheholyland.net)

About 75 metres further uphill, at the junction of the Via Dolorosa with Souq Khan al-Zeit, two Franciscan chapels, one above the other, mark the Seventh Station.

Inside the lower chapel is a large stone column, part of the colonnaded Cardo Maximus, the main street of Byzantine Jerusalem, which ran from north to south.

The position of this Station marks the western boundary of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time. It is believed he left the city here, through the Garden Gate, on his way to Calvary.

VIII: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem

Across Souq Khan al-Zeit and about 20 metres up a narrower street, the Eighth Station is opposite the Station VIII Souvenir Bazaar.

On the wall of a Greek Orthodox monastery, beneath the number marker is a carved stone set at eye level. It is distinguished by a Latin cross flanked by the Greek letters IC XC NI KA (meaning “Jesus Christ conquers”).

Via Dolorosa

Eighth Station: Stone in wall, carved with Latin cross (Seetheholyland.net)

IX: Jesus falls the third time

Now it is necessary to retrace one’s steps back towards the Seventh Station, and turn right along Souq Khan al-Zeit.

Less than 100 metres on the right is a flight of 28 wide stone steps. At the top, a left turn along a winding lane for about 80 metres leads to the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, where the shaft of a Roman pillar to the left of the entrance marks Jesus’ third fall. Nearby is the Coptic Chapel of St Helen.

To the left of the pillar, three steps lead to a terrace that is the roof of the Chapel of St Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here, in a cluster of primitive cells, live a community of Ethiopian Orthodox monks.

X: Jesus is stripped of his garments

The last five Stations of the Cross are situated inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Via Dolorosa

Ninth Station: Roman pillar in far corner marks Jesus’ third fall (Seetheholyland.net)

If the door to the roof of the church is open, a short cut is possible.

On the terrace, the second small door on the right leads into the Ethiopians’ upper chapel. Steps at the back descend to their lower chapel, where a door gives access to the courtyard of the Holy Sepulchre basilica.

The Friday procession, however, returns along the winding lane and stone steps to Souq Khan al-Zeit, turning right after about 40 metres into Souq al-Dabbagha.

After about 80 metres, bearing to the right, a small archway with the words “Holy Sepulchre” leads into the church courtyard.

To the right inside the main door of the church, 19 steep and curving steps lead up to the chapels constructed above the rock of Calvary.

The five Stations inside the church are not specifically marked.

Via Dolorosa

Tenth Station: Interior of Chapel of the Franks, where the Tenth Station is located (Seetheholyland.net)

After ascending the steps inside the door, immediately on the right is a window looking into a small worship space called the Chapel of the Franks (a name traditionally given to the Franciscans). Here, in what was formerly an external entrance to Calvary, the Tenth Station is located.

XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross

The Catholic Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross, in the right nave on Calvary, is the site of the Eleventh Station.

On its ceiling is a 12th-century medallion of the Ascension of Jesus — the only surviving Crusader mosaic in the church.

Via Dolorosa

Eleventh Station: Catholic chapel on Calvary floor commemorates the nailing of Jesus to the cross (Seetheholyland.net)

XII: Jesus dies on the cross

The much more ornate Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Crucifixion, in the left nave of Calvary, is the Twelfth Station.

A silver disc beneath the altar marks the place where it is believed the cross of Christ stood. The limestone rock of Calvary may be touched through a round hole in the disc.

XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross

Between the Catholic and Greek chapels, a Catholic altar of Our Lady of Sorrows, depicting Mary with a sword piercing her heart, commemorates the Thirteenth Station.

XIV: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Via Dolorosa

Twelfth Station: Close-up of figure of Christ in Chapel of the Crucifixion (Picturesfree.org)

Another flight of steep stairs at the left rear of the Greek chapel leads back to the ground floor.

Downstairs and to the left, under the centre of the vast dome of the church, is a stone monument called an edicule (“little house”), its entrance flanked by rows of huge candles.

This is the Tomb of Christ, the Fourteenth Station of the Cross.

This stone monument encloses the tomb (sepulchre) where it is believed Jesus lay buried for three days — and where he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning.

 

Related articles:

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Chapels

 

Via Dolorosa

Fourteenth Station: Edicule over the Tomb of Jesus (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

In Scripture:

The crucifixion: Matthew 27:24-61; Mark 15:15-47; Luke 23:24-56; John 18:13—19:42

Via Dolorosa

Resurrected Christ behind ornate lamps above the door of the edicule (© Custodia Terrae Sanctae)

The empty tomb: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke: 24:1-12; John 20:1-10

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-2-6272692

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Beitzel, Barry J.: Biblica, The Bible Atlas: A Social and Historical Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Global Book Publishing, 2007)
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Hibbs, Jon: “Jerusalem: Pilgrims and Playboys”, The Telegraph, April 3, 1999
Jacobs, Daniel: Jerusalem: The Mini Rough Guide (Rough Guides, 1999)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: Keys to Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: With Jesus in Jerusalem – his First and Last Days in Judea (Corazin Publishing, 1996)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Zohar, Gil: “X Marks the Spot”, Associated Christian Press Bulletin, January-February 2009

External links

Way of the Cross (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The Way of the Cross (Christus Rex)
The Meaning of the Way of the Cross (Franciscan Cyberspot)

 

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