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March 12, 2014March 12, 2014  0 comments  Historical 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.


Interior of St. Alexander Nevsky Church


Can the Judgment Gate be seen today?


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.


Threshold of the Judgment Gate


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.


Remains of the Roman Temple


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.



Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah, the leading faith-based social network in the Holy Land. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010. 

March 17, 2013March 17, 2013  1 comments  Easter


“In two days, as you know, it will be the Passover Festival, and the Son of Man, will be handed over to be crucified.” (Matt. 26:2)


Those are the words Jesus said to his disciples two days before he was captured and sentenced to death. At the same time, chief priests and elders, who were against Jesus, were making plans how and when to arrest him.


Jesus Is Anointed at Bethany


Bethany Travelujah


Jesus was then anointed in Bethany, at the house of Simon. While he was eating, a woman came and broke a jar containing a very expensive perfume made of the pure nard, which she poured on his head. Christ’s disciples did not understand why she would ‘waste’, as they thought, such a valuable thing. However, Jesus excused her and said that she prepared him for the upcoming burial.


To commemorate this event, Franciscan brothers make an annual pilgrimage to Bethany (El-Azariya). This year 2013, they gathered on Thursday 14th of March, first at the Tomb of Lazarus and later in the church. The celebration was followed by the spiritual pilgrimage to Pater Noster Church and the Chapel of Ascension.


Holy Thursday - The Last Supper and Arrest of Jesus


Getsemane Travelujah


On the first day of Passover, the disciples asked Jesus, where they should eat their meal. So He ordered that they say these words to a ‘certain man’: “The Teacher says, My hour has come; my disciples and I will celebrate the Passover at your house.” (Matt 26:18).


Already at the supper, suddenly, Jesus rose from the table and started to wash and dry disciple’s feet. When he approached Simon Peter, the disciple wanted to refuse: “Are you going to wash my feet Lord?” (John 13:6) Jesus wanted to teach his followers that all the people are equal and that no one is better than another: “I am telling you the truth: no slave is greater than his master, and no messenger is greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:16)


Again at the table, Christ said to his twelve disciples: “I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (Matt 26:21) After hearing those words, all of the apostles became very upset. Jesus surely knew that one of his disciples - Judas Iscariot, went to the high priests and agreed with them on a prize of the thirty silver coins for betraying his teacher.


While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread and asked the gathered to eat it as it was his body, and he took a cup of wine and told them to drink from it as it was his blood. At that moment, Christ revealed that he is going to die for the forgiveness of sins of all his followers.


Cenacle Travelujah


After the meal, Jesus and his disciples went to the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. He wanted to pray on the mount, he took with him only Peter and two sons of Zebedee: James and John, so they could guard the place while he was praying. However, the apostles fell asleep. Suddenly Judas arrived with the soldiers behind him. He kissed his teacher, and pointed out who should be captured. Christ let the people arrest him to fulfill the prophecies written in the Scriptures.


Holy Thursday (28th of March 2013) solemnizes the events described above.  At 7 a Pontifical Mass of Washing of the Feet will be celebrated in the Holy Sepulchre. At 3:10pm in the afternoon, there will be a pilgrimage beginning from St. Saviour’s church to the Cenacle and to the churches of St. James and St. Mark. There will also be a mass in the Basilica of Agony in Gethsemane at 9 pm, followed with time for private prayers from 10 pm.


Good Friday – Passion of the Lord


Jesus was taken to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where all the teachers of Law and elders gathered. “The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some false evidence against Jesus to put him to death.” (Matt. 26:59). Christ, when asked if he is the Messiah, admitted but the gathered people did not believe him and accused him for blasphemy.


In the morning, the priests handed Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor, who tried to inquire if the one he received was the “King of the Jews”.


There was a tradition that at every Passover Festival a Roman governor would free a Jewish prisoner selected by the crowd. The people had a choice between two prisoners: “Which one do you want me to set free for you? Jesus Barrabas or Jesus called the Messiah?” (Matt. 27:16) Barrabas was one of the well-known criminals, but neverthe;ess the crowd wanted him to be freed.


Even though, Pilate saw Jesus the innocent, he could not go against the people’s wish. “I am not responsible for the death of this man. This is your doing!” (Matt. 27:24) They wanted Jesus to be crucified.


At the governor’s palace, Pilate’s soldiers took off Christ’s garments and put on Him a scarlet robe and a crown made of the thorny branches, which hurt him. After making fun of him, they dressed him in his own clothes and led him towards his crucifixion at Golgotha (Place of the Skull).


Via Dolorosa Travelujah


Jesus died on a cross, after screaming “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Many strange things happened on the day of his death. There was an earthquake and it was completely dark in the middle of the day. “Then the curtain hanging in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Matt 27:51) All this made many people believe that he really was the Son of God.


Good Friday (29th of March 2013) is marked by various celebrations held in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The Way of the Cross will be followed at 11:30 am from the First Station to the Golgotha. The “Funeral” procession will take place after midnight.


Easter Sunday – The Resurrection


There was a prophecy that Jesus would rise from death on the third day after His death. The chief priests knew this and therefore they ordered his tomb to be well guarded to prevent the disciples from stealing Christ’s body.


On the Sunday morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to see the tomb. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord came from heaven to roll away the stone blocking the tomb. The guards were so afraid that they could not move. The angel spoke to the women: “He is not there; he has been raised, just as he said.”


Calendar of the Holy Week and Easter Celebrations:


Palm Sunday – 24th of March


  • 6:30 am – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre: Procession with Palms and Pontifical Mass at Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene
  • 2:30 pm – Bethphage – Palm Sunday procession over Mt. of Olives to St. Anne’s Church
  • 4 pm – Jerusalem - Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession


Monday of Holy Week – 25th of March


  • 6 am – Jerusalem –  5th Station: Masses until 8 am
  • 6 am – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre (Calvary): Parish Mass (in Arabic)
  • 7 am – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre: Daily Solemn Mass
  • 4 pm – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession


Tuesday of Holy Week – 26th of March


  • 7 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Solemn Mass with signing of the Passion
  • 7:30 am – Jerusalem –  Flagellation: Solemn Mass with signing of the Passion
  • 4 pm – Jerusalem – Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession


Wednesday of Holy Week – 27th of March


  • 7 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Solemn Mass with signing of the Passion and daily procession
  • 7 am – Jerusalem – Gethsemane (Basilica of the Agony): Solemn Mass with signing of the Passion
  • 9 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Veneration of the Flagellation Colum throughout the day in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
  • 3 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Tabernacle Service


Holy Thursday – 28th of March


  • 7 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Pontifical Mass (Washing of the Feet). Procession of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • 1: 45 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Notes: Basilica doors open, and close shortly afterwards. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Service. Notes: Exit after the Service (5 pm). The basilica remains closed for the rest of the day.
  • 3:30 pm – Jerusalem –  Mount Sion: Pilgrimage to the Cenactle and to the churches of St. James and St. Mark (Departure from St. Saviour’s at 3:10 pm)
  • 9 pm – Jerusalem –  Gethsemane: Holy Hour in the Basilica of Agony (No Photographs) Notes: 10pm – midnight: private prayers in silence


Holy Friday – 29th of March


  • 8 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Notes: Basilica doors open only for celebration, not for visits), and close shortly afterwards.
  • 8:15 am – Jerusalem – Calvary: Celebration of the Passion of the Lord
  • 11:30 am – Jerusalem – Via Dolorosa: Way of the Cross. Starting from the First Station with the Franciscan Friairs, followed by various groups.
  • 6 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Service
  • 00:30 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: “Funeral” Procession


Holy Saturday – 30th of March


  • 7:30 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Easter Vigil
  • 3:15 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Entrance and Solemn Procession
  • 6 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Evening Prayer in front of the Edicule
  • 00:30 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Pontifical Celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in front of the Edicule, with the Custos of the Holy Land officiating


Easter Sunday – 31st of March


  • 6:30am SonRise service -Garden Tomb
  • 9:30 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Entrance of the Latin Patriarch
  • 9:45 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Pontifical Mass and Solemn Procession
  • 1200 Resurrection service in Korean broadcast on short wave radio to 2000+ Korean churches planted in the Far East
  • 5 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession


Easter Monday– 1st of April


  • 8:30 am – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Daily Solemn Mass
  • 10 am – Emmaus (Qubeibeh) – Pontifical Mass and Blessing of bread by the Custos of the Holy Land
  • 2: 30 pm – Emmaus (Qubeibeh) – Solemn Eucharistic Exposition
  • 5 pm – Jerusalem –  Holy Sepulchre: Daily Procession


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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.

March 28, 2013March 28, 2013  0 comments  Holy Sites

“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull”. (Jn 19:17)


Jesus Christ was unjustly pronounced to death, however, he did not oppose to the given sentence for it was his wish and act of an unconditional love to die for our sins and be a redeemer to us. He was crucified and later entombed on a hill called Golgotha in Aramaic, Kranion in Greek, and Catvary in Latin, which means ‘skul’. This was also the place of his resurrection.


In the gospels, the place of the Skull is described as garden just outside the walls of Jerusalem, which gives us a good impression of the common tradition among the civilizations of the ancient world to place tombs outside the city walls.


Holy Sepulchre Travelujah


However, due to many changes in the topography of the town, nowadays, we cannot see Golgotha as it used to be on the day of Christ’s death. In 41-42 AD Herod Agrippa enlarged the city walls towards the northwest, so the place of the Skull became incorporated into the proper part of Jerusalem.


Temple of Jupiter


Early Christians used to gather in the places significant for Jesus’ life. Thus, the area of Golgotha was a site of their worship, probably until 135 AD, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian decided to reconstruct Jerusalem and name it Aelia Capitolina. The Emperor, as an opponent to Christianity, built over Calvary an altar dedicated to Jupiter and over the Tomb an altar for Venus.


Constantinian Church


According to the writings of historian Eusebius (263 – 339 AD), the Roman temple stood on the site of Golgotha until 326 A.D. This was the year in which Empress Helena, mother of the First Christian Emperor of Rome - Constantine, began her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During her journey she founded multiple churches - one of them was the splendid Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which was inaugurated in 335.


Holy Sepulchre Travelujah


The architects of Emperor Constantine raised tree blocks of buildings, which position and arrangement are still visible today.


The first block, called Anastasis and meaning resurrection, contained the Tomb, which isolated from the mountain, stood in the center of a colonnade of double row of columns supporting a cupola with an oculus. This part till now remains almost intact.


The second block occupied the area called the Holy Garden, which on the sides had galleries enclosing a vast open space. In the south corner stood the Rock of Calvary, on which shone a cross of gold. Its principal architectural elements were arcades and galleries. Today of the Constantinian construction all that remains is the long wall to the north.


The third block of Martyrion Basilica, formed a great construction erected for liturgical celebrations, which could be entered by atrium from the main street Cardo Maximus of Aelia. Unfortunately, not much remains of that part, so it is impossible to fully reconstruct the plan this building.


Persian Invasion


The impressive edifice of Constantine was destroyed during the Persian invasion of 614, but immediately after, the church was restored by the Abbot Modestus, however on a reduced plan.


Holy Sepulchre Travelujah


Caliph Hakem


In the 11th century, the fanatic Caliph Hakem again brought the Holy Sepulcher into destruction, however its restoration was completed in 1048 by Emperor Constantine Monomachus. And this time only the Anastasis regained its former magnificence and the other Holy Sites were marked just by little oratories.




In the 12th century, the cupola over Christ’s Tomb and the chapels on Calvary were joined together under one roof, within a magnificent cathedral. The Rotunda (Anastasis) was conserved in great part and furnished with a grand triumphal arch opening on the new church erected on the former garden, used as a choir, which was contained within pillars and columns, provided with a  tribune and surrounded by and ambulatory.


The southern courtyard was beautified with a bell tower and a noble entrance to Calvary, called the Chapel of the Franks. The North aisle, called “The Arches of the Virgin” was not changed. According to Tradition, this is where Mary walked to visit her Son’s Tom. Saint Helena’s lower Basilica was built during the Crusader era, as was the Chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross.


The edifice of the Crusaders, although despoiled of its early splendour and disfigured by later additions and deplorable restoration, exists to this day in its main outline.




Nowadays, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher looks like a puzzle – it is shared on many small chapels, which each of them has its own name.


The churche’s façade till now preserves the characteristic of the crusader architecture. It has twin doors, the right of which has been closed in the time of Saladin (end of 12th century), the other has since 1246 been confided to the custody of two Muslim families, one of each keeps the key, while the other has the right of opening.


The last structural changes were made after the great fire in 1808. Among other works, the Rotunda over the Tomb was renovated. From the Constantine times, there remain only its external walls. The elegant marble columns were in 1810 enclosed in the massive pillar, which reduced the diameter of the Rotunda from the 33 m to 19,30 m.


Holy Sepulchre Travelujah


Catholic celebrations for Easter 2013 in the Holy Sepulchre:


Good Friday - 29th of March

  • 8.00 The doors of the Basilica open (Note: only for celebration, not for visits and close shortly afterwards.)
  • 8.15 Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Calvary
  • 11.30 Way of the Cross from the I. Station (Omarije School) to the Holy Sepulchre with the Fransiscan fathers
  • 16.00 Service
  • 20.10 "Funeral" Procession


Holy Saturday - 30th of March

  • 7.30 Easter Vigil
  • 15.15 Entrance and solemn procession
  • 18.00 Evening prayer in front of the Holy Tomb
  • 00.30 Pontifical celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in front of the Holy Tomb with the Custos of the Holy Land


Easter Sunday - 31st March

  • 9.30 Entrance of the Latin Patriarch
  • 9.45 Pontifical mass and solemn procession
  • 17.00 Daily procession


Easter Monday - 1st April

  • 8.00 Daily solemn mass
  • 17.00 Daily procession


If you go:


The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located at St. Helena Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. Phone: (02) 6273314


Opening hours: (April-September) Sundays 5.00 am - 8.00 pm, Monday Saturday 5.00 am - 9.00 pm. (October-March) Sundays 4.00 am - 7.00 pm. Monday-Saturday  4.00 am - 7.00 pm





Armenian Orthodox

8.45 am Liturgy twice a month

9.45 am Liturgy (S) twice a month

4.15 pm Procession (W)

5.15 pm Procession (S)

3.30 am Liturgy (W)

4.30 am Liturgy (S)

4.15 pm Procession Fri.& Sat. (W)

5.15 pm Procession Fri.& Sat. (S)

Coptic Orthodox

7.00 am Liturgy (W)

8.00 am Liturgy (S)

6.00 am Liturgy Wed.& Fri. (W)

7.00 am Liturgy Wed. & Fri. (S)

2.30 pm Vespers Sat. (W)

4.00 pm Vespers Sat. (S)

Greek Orthodox

7.00 am Orthros (W)

8.00 am Orthros (S)

11.00 pm Liturgy (W)

12.00 mn Liturgy (S)

Roman Catholic


between 5.30 am & 8.00 am

6.30 am High Mass (Latin)

6.00 pm



between 4.30 am & 7.00 am

5.30 am High Mass (Latin)

5.00 pm


between 5.30 am & 8.00 am

7.30 am High Mass (Latin)

6.00 pm Saturday



between 4.30 am & 7.00 am

6.30 am High Mass (Latin)

5.00 pm Saturday

Syrian Orthodox

8.30 am Liturgy (W)

9.30 am Liturgy (S)




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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010. 

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