Holy Sepulchre

Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Greek: Ναὸς τῆς Ἀναστάσεως Naos tes Anastaseos; Armenian: Սուրբ Հարության տաճար Surb Harut’yan tač̣ar; Latin: Ecclesia Sancti Sepulchri; also called the Church of the Resurrection or Church of the Anastasis by Orthodox Christians) is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula. The Status Quo, an understanding between religious communities dating to 1757, applies to the site.

Within the church proper are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) stations of the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of the Passion of Jesus. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the fourth century, as the traditional site of the resurrection of Christ, thus its original Greek name, Church of the Anastasis (‘Resurrection’).

Today, the wider complex around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the church itself is shared among several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

History


Following the siege of 70 AD during the First Jewish–Roman War, Jerusalem had been reduced to ruins. In 130 AD, the Roman emperor Hadrian began the building of a Roman colony, the new city of Aelia Capitolina, on the site. Circa 135 AD he ordered that a cave containing a rock-cut tomb be filled in to create a flat foundation for a temple dedicated to Jupiter or Venus. The temple remained until the early 4th century.

Construction (4th century)
After seeing a vision of a cross in the sky in 312, Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, signed the Edict of Milan legalising the religion, and sent his mother Helena to Jerusalem to look for Christ’s tomb. With the help of Bishop of Caesarea Eusebius and Bishop of Jerusalem Macarius, three crosses were found near a tomb, leading the Romans to believe that they had found Calvary. Constantine ordered in about 326 that the temple to Jupiter/Venus be replaced by a church. After the temple was torn down and its ruins removed, the soil was removed from the cave, revealing a rock-cut tomb that Helena and Macarius identified as the burial site of Jesus, which a shrine was constructed around. In 327, Constantine and Helena separately commissioned the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built as separate constructs over the two holy sites: the great basilica (the Martyrium visited by Egeria in the 380s), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) with the traditional site of Calvary in one corner, and across a courtyard, a rotunda called the Anastasis (“Resurrection”), where Helena and Macarius believed Jesus to have been buried.

The church was consecrated on 13 September 335. Every year, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the anniversary of the Dedication of the Temple of the Resurrection of Christ [ru].

Damage and destruction (614–1009)
This building was destroyed by a fire in May of 614 A.D when the Sassanid Empire, under Khosrau II, invaded Jerusalem and captured the True Cross. In 630, the Emperor Heraclius rebuilt the church after recapturing the city. After Jerusalem came under Arab rule, it remained a Christian church, with the early Muslim rulers protecting the city’s Christian sites, prohibiting their destruction or use as living quarters. A story reports that the Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab visited the church and stopped to pray on the balcony; but at the time of prayer, he turned away from the church and prayed outside. He feared that future generations would misinterpret this gesture, taking it as a pretext to turn the church into a mosque. Eutychius added that Umar wrote a decree prohibiting Muslims from praying at this location. The building suffered severe damage due to an earthquake in 746.

Early in the ninth century, another earthquake damaged the dome of the Anastasis. The damage was repaired in 810 by Patriarch Thomas. In the year 841, the church suffered a fire. In 935, the Orthodox Christians prevented the construction of a Muslim mosque adjacent to the Church. In 938, a new fire damaged the inside of the basilica and came close to the rotunda. In 966, due to a defeat of Muslim armies in the region of Syria, a riot broke out, which was followed by reprisals. The basilica was burned again. The doors and roof were burnt, and the Patriarch John VII was murdered.

On 18 October 1009, Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the complete destruction of the church as part of a more general campaign against Christian places of worship in Palestine and Egypt.[e] The damage was extensive, with few parts of the early church remaining, and the roof of the rock-cut tomb damaged; the original shrine was destroyed. Some partial repairs followed. Christian Europe reacted with shock and expulsions of Jews, serving as an impetus to later Crusades.

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