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April 10, 2011April 10, 2011  1 comments  Geography

The Holy Sepulchre is more than just a large, ancient church, but is a holy site for Orthodox and Catholic Christians divided into many smaller chapels dedicated to different parts of the Easter story.

Also known as the Church of the Resurrection, the cavernous church commemorates the hill of crucifixion and the tomb of Christ's burial. It sits on the edge of the Christian Quarter in the Old City and is home to several Christian denominations: Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the (Latin) Roman Catholic are the larger denominations while the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox also possess rights and properties in the building.

Originally built by Constantine’s mother in 330 A.D. on top of a pagan worship site, inside the church many first-century tombs hewn from rock were discovered there, one identified as that of Joseph of Arimathea, used for the body of Jesus after his resurrection.

holy sepulchre, tomb, easterThe Church of the Holy Sepulcher has weathered many attacks during various periods of history in the Holy Land. Most of the present building is the result of 12th-century reconstruction by the crusaders. Since 1520, the keys of the church have been kept by a Muslim family rather than one of the Christian groups.

Because many denominations share the building, disputes often arise regarding the space. One is the continuing dispute between the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox concerning ownership rights in the Chapel of the Ethiopians, located on the roof of the Chapel of St. Helena. Also, during Easter fights sometimes break out between the Greek and Armenian Orthodox during the Holy Fire ceremony.

Click here for a list of services and the various chapels in which they take place.

The following is a description of the chapels and significant locations within the church, memorializing the death and resurrection of Christ.

The Tomb of Jesus
The tomb, also known as the edicule, is at the center of the Holy Sepulchre Church, and symbolically sits under the largest dome in the church. The tomb is used in turn by all of the denominations for daily mass. A rectangular, tall structure built of red granite and adorned with candlesticks outside the door, the edicule houses two small rooms - the Chapel of The Angel and the tomb itself. The Chapel of the Angel contains a stone, which represents part of the larger stone that was rolled away from Christ's tomb on the day of the resurrection, according to tradition. On this stone is an imprint of a hand believed to be that of one of the angels who waited in tomb to announce the resurrection. A Greek monk is always present in this room to guard the Tomb of Christ. The Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre contains the tomb of Christ, the 14th Station of the Cross and the holiest site in Christendom. A marble slab lies in the place where Jesus was laid.

holy sepulchre, tomb, easter, stone of anointingStone of Anointing
Upon entering the Holy Sepulchre from the spacious courtyard, the Stone of the Anointing or Unction, lies just beyond the iron doors. Tradition has it that this is the spot where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus was anointed and wrapped in a clean linen cloth according to the Jewish tradition of those days. The limestone slab dates to 1808 replacing the one destroyed in the 12th century. Opulent lamps hang above the stone. Many pilgrims stop here first to kiss the stone before moving on to the rest of the church.

Golgotha (or Calvary)
To the right of the stone is a staircase that leads to two chapels on the tip of Golgotha, where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The first room is a Catholic Franciscan Chapel with an altar dedicated to the Nailing of the Cross (Station 11 of the Via Dolorosa). The Greek Orthodox Calvary is the second room, with the actual Rock of Golgotha (Station 12 of the Via Dolorosa) that can be seen through glass. Pilgrims may touch the rock through a small opening in the glass.

holy sepulchre, tomb, easterThe Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene
This Franciscan chapel, to the north of the tomb, is believed to the where Mary Magdalene watched Jesus’ burial, as recounted in Mark 15:47, and also encountered Jesus after his resurrection. This is the Catholic area of the church.

The Prison of Christ
This small area is believed to be where Jesus was temporarily held with the two thieves before he was crucified.

The Chapel of the Division of the Robe
The Armenian chapel is the location at which it is believed the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ robe according to John 19:24.

The Chapel of St. Longinus'
The Greek chapel is dedicated to Longinus, the Roman soldier who led the group of soldiers that escorted Jesus to Golgotha. According to Matthew 27:54, after the crucifixion the Roman centurion acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God.

The Chapel of the Crowning of the Thorns
This Greek Orthodox chapel is located at the base of Golgotha and, as the name suggests, memorializes the abuse Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman soldiers. According to John 19:2, the soldiers mocked Jesus and put on him a purple robe and crown of thorns. A small fragment of the column from the Prison of Christ is in this chapel.

holy sepulchre, tomb, easterThe Catholicon
The main chapel facing the Tomb of Christ is a large rectangular area with a dome and is considered the “naval of the world” - the spiritual center of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12). Two thrones are on the altar, one for the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and the other for the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. The ornate chapel is a large area used by the Greek Orthodox.

The Chapel of St. Helena/Chapel of St. Gregory
The Greeks consider this Helena’s Chapel while the Armenians call it the Chapel of St. Gregory. Located at the base of the stairs near the Crowning of the Thorns, there is a throne and an original mosaic from the church which has been preserved. Along the stairway small crosses carved by medieval pilgrims are etched into the wall. The chapel has two apses, one dedicated to the repentant thief and the other to St. Helena, mother of Constantine who searched for the true cross, according to tradition.

The Chapel of St. Vartan
This Armenian chapel, not often open to the public, is adjacent to St. Helena’s Chapel and was only discovered in the 1970s. Remnants of the wall date back to the 2nd century and one is etched with a merchant ship and an inscription which translates "Lord, we shall go."

The Chapel of the Finding of the Cross
According to tradition, St. Helen discovered Jesus’ cross here in 330 AD. She found three crosses - one for Jesus and the two thieves crucified with him. She brought a sick man to touch each cross and determined that the one at which the man was healed was the cross of Christ.

The Coptic Chapel
Located on the other side of the tomb, the small chapel has its own separate entrance.

The Syrian Chapel
For the Syrian Orthodox Christians, this chapel on the east end of the church was used for burials in Jesus’ time.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.

April 18, 2011April 18, 2011  1 comments  Geography

Holy Week was ushered in to Jerusalem on Sunday with thousands of Christians waving palms and walking the route believed to be the same one Jesus took when he entered Jerusalem in his final week.

easter, holy land, palm sunday“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!’ Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.’” John 12:12-15

Thousands of Christians, both local Arabs and Armenians, plus pilgrims, poured into the alleys of the Old City to attend Palm Sunday services and then left with their symbolic fronds for family dinners or to visit more of the city.

The excitement that always marks this time in Jerusalem was palpable in the Old City on Sunday.  As the week carries on, the anticipation of the holy day builds until the Saturday of Light and then ultimately Easter Sunday.

Many of the Holy Week events in Jerusalem are relived as in the Bible. Because of the geography here, Christians can actually follow the footsteps of Jesus around Jerusalem to the holy sites that commemorate the week of his last supper, death and resurrection.

Anthony, a tourist from Romania, was making his first Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He said he was moved by being able to live out some of the passion of Jesus, on location.

easter, holy land“I think it is important to do this at least once in order to strengthen my faith,” he told Travelujah. “I feel the Easter story coming alive to me.”

Services took place at various churches around Israel and the Palestinian territories.

By Nicole Jansezian, Travelujah

Nicole Jansezian writes for www.travelujah.com, the only Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. Travelujah is a vibrant online community offering high quality Christian content, user and expert blogs, travel tours and planning services for people interested in connecting with or traveling to the Holy Land.


March 27, 2014March 27, 2014  0 comments  Masses

On Easter and the preceding Holy Week, Jerusalem usually fills with visitors from all parts of the world. Pilgrims flock to the Holy City to commemorate the important events from the last days of Christ’s life.


The main celebrations will take place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. However, other churches and shrines will also hold religious services honoring various happenings from last moments of  Christ’s terrestial life.


This year 2014, according to western and eastern Eucharistic calendars, Easter will be celebrated by both Catholic and Orthodox Christians on 20th of April. Moreover, this time will coincide with Jewish holiday of Passover, which will begin on the evening of 14th of April and end on the evening of the 22nd of April. This cover up of the dates will probably increase the number of visitors to Jerusalem at once, but will also make this time more interesting and meaningful for all.


Holy Light Jerusalem


Travelujah’s tip:


The best way to have an unforgettable spiritual experience in the Holy Land is to commemorate the Easter happenings with the local Christian community. Have a look at the following list of masses and events for that period of the year.


Travelujah is a leading faith-based social network that could be also your space to share your Holy Land tour and travel experiences with others. If you would like to do that, simply contact us on: info@travelujah.com


List of the Holy Masses:




  • Commemoration of the Flagellation of the Lord in the Church of the Flagellation in Jerusalem at 17:00



  • Resurrection of Lazarus, celebrated in Bethany (El-Azariya) at the Tomb of Lazarus at 6:30 with a Holy mass in the
 Church of St. Lazarus at 7:30, that will be followed with a solemn mass and spiritual pilgrimage to the Ascension Shrine on the Mt. of Olives and to the Church of the Pater Noster.



  • Mass at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at 16:00



  • Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at 6:30



  • Commemoration of the Way of the Cross at Lithostrotos (Ecce Homo Convent) at 17:00



  • Friday of Seven Sorrows at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at 9:00
  • Solemn mass on Calvary at
17:00 with a daily procession



  • Commemoration of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem at the Church of Betfage at 9:00
  • Eve of the Palm Sunday: Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre - 8 am; Solemn mass - 
14:30; Solemn entry of the Latin Patriarch, H.B. Fuad Twal and procession
at 00:40; Vigil in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament presided by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custod of the Holy Land

13/04/2014 (Palm Sunday)


  • Procession with Palm branches and pontifical mass at the Mary Magdalene Altar in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre at 7:00
  • Palm Sunday procession on the Mount of Olives at 14:30

14/04/2014 (Holy Monday)


  • Via Dolorosa - V Station - Holy Masses in different languages from 6:00 till 8:00
  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Holy mass in Arabic on Calvary at 7:00; Solemn mass in the Holy Tomb at 8 am; 
Daily procession at 17:00

15/04/2014 (Holy Tuesday)


  • Solemn mass with singing of the Passion of Christ

at the Church of the Flagellation at 8:00
  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Solemn mass with singing of the Passion of Christ at 8:00; Daily procession at 17:00

16/04/2014 (Holy Wednesday)


  • Solemn mass with singing of the Passion of Christ
 at Gethsemane in Basilica of the Agony at 8:00
  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Solemn mass with singing of the Passion of Christ and daily procession at 8 am;
Exposition and veneration of the Column in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament throuout the day from 10:00;
Tenebrae Service at 16:00

17/04/2014 (Holy Thursday)


  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Entry of the Latin Patriarch, H.B. Fuad Twal, pontifical mass with the Washing of the Feet and procession with the Blessed Sacramant
Notes at 8:00; Soon after the service (approx. 12:00) the doors of the Basilica will be closed - no exit or entrance; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and service at 14:45 - The doors open and close shortly afterwards. After the service (approx. 18:00) the Basilica remains closed for the rest of the day.
  • Mount Zion - Last Supper Room: Spiritual pilgrimage to the Cenacle, Washing of the Feet, and to the Churches of St. James and St. Mark
with a departure from St. Savior's Monastery at 15:10;
  • Gethsemane - Basilica of the Agony: Holy Hour presided by Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land at 21:00 
(Note: 21:30 – 00:00 private prayer in silence)

18/04/2014 (Good Friday)


  • Celebration of the Passion of Christ on Calvary

in Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher at 7:15
  • Procession of the Way of the Cross, starting at 12:15
  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Service at 16:00; 
"Funeral" Procession at 20:15

19/04/2014 (Holy Saturday)


  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Easter Vigil at 6:30;
Evening Prayer in front of the Edicule at 18:00;
Pontifical celebration of the Liturgy of the Hoursat the Altar of Mary Magdalene, presided by the Custod of the Holy Land at 23:30

20/04/2014 (Easter Sunday)


  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre: Entry of the Latin Patriarch, H.B. Fuad Twal at 10:00;
Pontifical mass and procession at 10:30; Daily Procession at 17:00

21/04/2014 (Easter Monday)


  • Franciscan Shrine of Emmaus - Qubeibeh: Solemn mass presided by Fr. Piebattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land at 10:00;
Evening Prayer and Solemn Eucharistic Exposition
at 14:30
  • Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre:
 Solemn mass at 8:00;
Daily procession at 17:00

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