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The Holiest Place in Christendom: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Armenian CrossLast year, in May and June of 2016, Father Seraphim and Brother Simeon of Light of the Spirit Monastery were fortunate to make their first pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine. They spent much of the trip visiting (and revisiting) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, properly called the Church of the Resurrection.

This is the holiest place in Christendom, for the large complex houses many important sites of Jesus’ life. It was built by the Emperor Constantine at the behest of his mother, the Empress Helena, and was destroyed and rebuilt several times during its long history.

Most importantly, inside is the hill of Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as the Tomb of Jesus, where he was buried and from which he arose from the dead. Recently the “Edicule,” the 18th century shrine built over the tomb of Jesus was restored in a nearly year long project, to address safety concerns and for archaelogical study. It has recently been re-opened to the public.

During our visits we took many photos (some of which can be seen in our Holy Land photo albums), and during this Holy Week and Easter season, we would like to share a few of these photos with captions below each one with our readers.

the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Standing before the doors of the Church of the Resurrection, commonly called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Fr. Seraphim speaks to a pilgrim from India. When she visited Jerusalem several years ago she found it so holy she decided to live there, within the walls of the “Old City,” so that she could visit the holy sites daily.

the stone of anointing, just inside the entrace to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Stone of Anonting is just inside the doors of the Church of the Holy Seplulchre, near the foot of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. This is the stone, or a representation of the stone, upon which Jesus was anointed before his burial.

Pilgrims from around the world touch the Stone of Anointing. Touching is believing, in this case, and brings home the reality of what happened. People kiss the Holy Stone, lay their hands and foreheads upon it, and place their rosaries and important personal items upon it to receive its blessing.

The altar at the site of Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified
The shrine of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, up and to the right on entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, ornamented with large silver icons by the Czar of Russia. In the floor beneath the altar is a silver disk with a hole in the center, marking the place of the Crucifixion. Like other pilgrims, we knelt inside the altar and touched this holy spot (many times!).

The Edicule, the 18th century shrine built over the tomb of Christ

A rare quiet moment at the “Edicule,” – the shrine building of the Holy Sepulchre at the heart of the Church of the Resurrection, which houses the tomb of Christ, from which he arose.

Looking inside the doorway you can see a small white marble altar, on the top of which is the remaining part of the stone which the angel rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Outside the entrance are two members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, who maintain many of the holy places within the church.

The Edicule from above in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Holy Sepulchre seen from the balcony above, in the Armenian chapel. From here we could see a wide range of pilgrims from around the world. This included devout Muslims, for whom Jesus was seen as a prophet.

The reinforcements seen around the shrine were the preparation for the major repairs which occured during and in the year after our visit, courtesy of an American donor. The restoration is now complete. (See the videos below.)

Inside the tomb of Jesus

Inside the Holy Sepulchre, the small dark room in which thousands of pilgrims come to kneel each day, venerating the stone cover beneath which lies the stone from which Jesus rose from the dead. The embroidered cloth proclaims “Christ is Risen!”

A news piece about the restoration of the Edicule. (Youtube link here.)

A National Geographic video showing aspects of the restoration. (Youtube link here.)

To see more photos and articles about our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, visit our Monks’ Pilgrimage page.

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