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November 21, 2010November 21, 2010  0 comments  History

On Tuesday, 17th or 18th October 1009, a group of workmen entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and started demolishing what was then (and is now) the holiest site for Christians worldwide. Who ordered them to do so, and why?

The answer lied on the banks of the Nile, inside the head of the Caliph of the Fatimid Empire Abu 'Ali Mansur al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. This man, whose Arabic name literally meant "Ruler by God's Command", ruled from his palace in old Cairo over a vast strip of land stretching from modern Tunisia in the west to modern Syria in the east, including all of the Holy Land.


Al-Hakim's reign, which began at the age of eleven, was a relatively troubled one. The Caliphate under his rule faced opponents abroad, such as the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad (which saw his rule as illegitimate on the grounds that he was a missionary of Shi'ite Islam rather than Sunni Islam). In addition, the army under Al-Hakim's command was torn by rival factions.

Al-Hakim repeatedly exhibited eccentric and capricious behavior. Besides executing several viziers (chief ministers) in a short period of time, he was very much obsessed with his subjects' morality. This obsession found expression in strange rules regarding every aspect of their daily lives (down to their diet), and also in harsh measures taken against non-Muslims.

The most famous of these measures was the 1009 order for the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This large complex, originally built in the 4th century, contained several chapels and churches commemorating key events from the New Testament regarding Jesus' crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.

The workmen assigned for the job started by demolishing the empty tomb of Jesus and the dome above it. Chunks of wall that fell as a result blocked access to many parts of the church, thus saving them from destruction.

The church had already faced a similar assault between 614 and 622, when the Byzantines were temporarily driven out of the region by the Persian Empire. The destruction of 1009, however, had much longer implications. Until the end of al-Hakim's reign in 1021 Christians were banned from approaching the ruins, and only in 1042 his successors reached an agreement with Emperor Constantine IX regarding the church's reconstruction.

Further repairs and a substantial enlargement were made by the 12th century Crusaders who took the country from the Fatimids.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher we can see today is, architecturally speaking, the magnificent sum of all these past constructions and reconstructions.


Amir Rosenbaum is  the Co-Founder and owner of the Holy Land Gift site, Eastory.

 


March 12, 2012March 12, 2012  0 comments  History

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the latest of the many Holy Land shrines to have its own dedicated website. The site, unveiled today, was created by the Custody of the Holy Land, is offered in Italian, English, Spanish and Frend, along with many as well as rich images and photos of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The site offers a wealth of content that will enrich the experience of tourists, but those that are interested in doing in depth research on one of the most significant Christian holy sites.

 

church of the Holy Sepulchre website

 

The website offers a number of special tools , the most elaborate of which is a new Virtual Photo Tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Visitors can actually go into each of the rooms of the church and study the architecture. They will also be able to participate in Easter 2012 festivities in real time through the many videos produced by the Franciscan Media Center.

 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre website is the latest site launched by the Custody of the Holy Land, which is two years into an enormous project  that will ultimately provide a website for each of the shrines, as well as the libraries, Christian guesethouses and other properties operated by the Custody of the Holy Land. All of the websites are being created in an effort to assist pilgrims coming to the Holy Land as well as researchers, academics and others seeking to learn more about the holy sites and other places of interest.

 

 

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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah - Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to Israel. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

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April 19, 2009April 19, 2009  0 comments  Jesus

 

Saturday Night - April 18th.


The crowds swelled and pilgrims came from all over the world to join in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire Ceremony. The festivities occurred at the sacred Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the believed site of Jesus's crucifixion, buriel and resurrection by many - located in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Church was built on the orders of Emperor Constantine in 325, and has attracted a steady stream of pilgrims since its construction with the exception of a few periods in history. Control of the grounds and interior is sharply divided between Catholics and various Orthodox denominations, in a tenuous status quo that often degenerates into physical violence between monks, and has prevented much-needed structural repairs.


Considered a miracle that occurs annually on Holy Saturday - the day after Orthodox Easter Sunday when at precisely 2 pm local time, a sun beam believed to shine through the windown in the ceiling of the Church lights a lamp placed inside the tomb of Jesus. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theofilos III entered the tomb structure of Jesus at the Church and after the lighting of the lamp, he lights a few candles with the holy fire and passes them to worshippers in the Church. The fire then spreads rapidly amongst the church-goers. An olive lamp is expected to bring the flame to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, where street celebrations are also held.


Traditionally, the pilgrims were expected to bring back the fire to their own communities in Eastern Europe and Russia.

 



January 2, 2011January 2, 2011  0 comments  Holy Sites

There are few places as diminutive from the outside and yet grandiose on the inside as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church was built originally in 325 A.D. by Constantine's mother. He was the first emperor of Rome to officially convert to Christianity. He razed a former temple of Venus which had been built on the site several hundred years before during Hadrian's effort to rename Jerusalem Aelia Capetolina.

 

The site is of course traditionally believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified and where he was later resurrected in the presence of his twelve disciples. It also known to house the last four Stations of the Cross.

 

The building you'll visit today however is not the original building, nor is it even the original remade building or even the remade original building. In fact, few places have been destroyed and rebuilt more times than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was destroyed by Persians in 614A.D. and then rebuilt for the first time soon after that. However, the church was to see additional destruction, being burned to the foundations in 1009 A.D. by Hakim, the Sultan of the Muslim Caliphate at the time (he's sometimes known as "Hakim the Mad").

 

It was partially rebuilt later in 1048 A.D. when money was provided by Constantine IX of the Byzantine Empire. However, the church built by Constantine IX's money was not nearly as grand as the original church that Constantine had built. While no official explanation is offered for this, it's reasonable to assume that the Byzantine Empire, of which Constantine was ruler at the time was already facing a sharp decline, which eventually led to its ultimate destruction so he simply didn't have the money to do the rebuilding properly.

 

A proper rebuilding effort would have to wait until 1505 A.D. when a group of Franciscan monks came to the Holy Land with the intention of remaking the Church of the Holy Sepulcher into something truly grand and spectacular. The monks succeeded spectacularly; however what you'll see when you visit today is still not much of what they built.

 

That's because their vision was largely destroyed in 1808 when the church once again was burned to the ground, though this time by accident rather than deliberately. It was rebuilt yet again at that time and at the same time, a number of different groups began to lay claim to the church, with the groups now sharing power amongst themselves.

 

The groups include the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, under the auspices of the Vatican. However, the primary power in the church rotates between the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (the Greek Orthodox Church however maintains most of the control of the building).

 

A renovation plan was begun again in 1959 and it continues to cause controversy with each group who controls the church jockeying for position and the Israeli government attempting to get the parties to talk so that the church can be properly preserved without prejudicing any one group's claims t the church. An old ladder rests outside one of the windows of the church and has been there at least since the middle of the 19th century. However, because the various factions who control the church have not been able to agree on how to renovate it, the ladder has remained in place all this time.

 

Because the church has so many different groups claiming ownership and was rebuilt at various time (parts date from the 1048A.D. construction, other parts from 1505A.D. and most parts either from 1808A.D. or from the modern renovations begun in 1959 A.D.), it can seem pretty confusing with different styles dominating different parts of the building. However, the over-all effect is still quite stunning and beautiful.

 

The most important place in the church is of course the place of the crucifixion, where it is believed that the Jesus' cross was placed outside the city walls of Jerusalem in 33 A.D. (There is another, competing location which was identified in the 19th century called the Garden Tomb, however most people still look to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as being the place of the actual crucifixion of Christ.). This part of the church is run by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and includes what some describe as a "rocky outcropping" where the cross is believed to have been placed. The area includes the 12th station of the cross, which is the rock of cavalry and 11th station of the cross, which is run by Franciscan monks. There is also the "Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross" in the same area. The 13th station of the cross is there as well, with a statue of Mary Mother of Jesus and that is where His family moved Him after He was killed on the cross (according to most traditions).

 

The Stone of Anointing, where the body of Jesus was prepared by Joseph of Arimathea before it was buried is located just inside the entrance to this area.

 

The Edicule is the place where Jesus was initially buried after he died on the cross. The cave is no longer there having been destroyed completely by Hakim (that would be "Hakim the Mad" who we mentioned above) in 1009 A.D., however the tradition that this is the place where the cave was initially is quite strong.

 

The "Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" is here as well and it is an actual tomb dating from the time of Jesus. It's largely looked to as archeological proof that the place is indeed the final resting place of Christ.  However, while archeologists have been able to date the tomb to the time of Jesus, there are no markings and the area was actually discovered fairly recently during renovations in the building.

 

Two locations inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher also lay claim to being the Prison of Christ, where Jesus was held before His crucifixion.

 

A number of chapels are located in the Armenian part of the church as well, including the Chapel of St. Helena and the Chapel of St. Vardan, which is said to contain relics from Hadrian's temple to Venus and Constantine's original church. There is also the Chapel of the Invention of the Holy Cross, where the original cross Jesus was crucified on was said to have been found and finally the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, where Jesus' mother met Him after His resurrection.

 

Overall, the church is really an overwhelming place to take in and as we said at the beginning of this article, it's all accessed through a small door which makes it all the more unique of an experience.

 

The church is located at the corner of Suq Khan e-Zeit and Christian Quarter Rd in Jerusalem's Old City. to experience candlelighting inside the Church View Candlelighting at Calvary.

 

Eric Hammer writes for Travelujah, the only Christian social network where people can learn, plan and share their Holy land travel experiences. 


April 9, 2014April 9, 2014  0 comments  Holy Sites

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over Calvary - place where Christ was crucified, entombed and where he resurrected from, stands in a very central place within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. However, as we can easily imagine, at the time of Jesus, the topography of the Holy City varied a lot from the present one.

 

The Gospels describe Golgotha (place of the Skull) as a garden just outside the walls of Jerusalem. That clearly means that the procession leading Jesus to death must have left the city through one of the city gates - the Judgment Gate.

 

It was only around 41 AD, when the Holy City was enlarged towards northwest by Herod Agrippa and the Christ's sepulchre was included into the proper area of Jerusalem.

 

Can the Judgment Gate be seen today?

 

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Not all the visitors to Jerusalem are actually aware that the threshold of the Judgment Gate remains excellently preserved and is one of the most sacred shrines of Christianity. But where can it be seen today?

 

Our fully understandable admiration and focus on the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre might overshadow many things located around it. But we need to remember that the Holy City of Jerusalem hides plenty of precious and important sites.

 

St. Alexander Nevsky Church

 

One of such places is St. Alexander Nevsky Church that was named after an admired warrior and Russian prince from the 13th century. The edifice was completed and consecrated on 5th of September 1891, and today, it serves as the focal area of the Russian Orthodox mission in the city of Jerusalem.

 

It is located just next to the present form of the Holy Sepulchre, on the grounds purchased by Russia in 1859. The shrine houses important archaeological findings.

 

The archaeological dig at the site, which begun in 1883, was led by A. Kapoustin. It revealed massive walls with and opening between them, dating back to the Roman era and determined as the "Holy Threshold of the Judgment Gate" - the edge of the city walls and the place where Jesus passed on during his crucifixion journey.

 

Looking to the left from the threshold, we can also see an "eye of needle" - a hole where stake of the gate's door shall be placed. When the church was built, the threshold was covered with glass in a wooden frame. Behind it was placed a large stone taken (purchased) from the Calvary, on which a traditional Orthodox Crucifix was fixed.

 

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The excavations also revealed remnants of the columns and arches dating back to the 2nd century AD, which might have been parts of the Hadrian's temple built over the site of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

What is more, there were also found ruins of the Constantinian's Basilica from the 4th century. For example, part of a massive column can be seen behind the Judgment Gate.

 

Travelujah's tip:

 

Take with you some coins (5 NIS), as there is a small entrance fee (totally worth the experience). Please remember about modest clothes, covering your arms and knees. At the entrance to the church, women will receive something to cover their hair and a skirt - the dress code of Russian holy sites.

 

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Beata Andonia is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem four years ago. She works at the local tourism office and writes regularly for Travelujah.

 


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