A visit to the Old City of Jerusalem would not be complete without a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This amazing building does not only have immense historical importance, but also provides a great spiritual experience due to so many centuries of being a source of reverence and enlightenment to countless pilgrims and visitors.
Although the site of the church was originally outside of the walled city, the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its surrounding sites were incorporated into the Old City when a third wall was built by the Romans, as a result of which Golgotha became a part of what is now known as the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Church itself has been a main pilgrimage site since the 2nd century BC, and is believed to be the site of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection. The original building known to have occupied the site was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite.
Emperor Constantine 1 rebuilt the temple as a church after embracing the Christian faith, and while excavations were ongoing for the foundations of this new church, it was reputed that the remnants of the True Cross and tomb were found, thereby solidifying the beliefs identifying the site at that of the crucifixion and resurrection.
Although the site has remained a constant and continuous place of pilgrimage for Christians the world over, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the course of many centuries, up until the 12th century, when it was rebuilt and reconsecrated under Crusader rule.
The church that we see today is essentially this same Crusader church, which has remained intact and even been extended, despite the fact that the city of Jerusalem has changed many hands over this period of time.
In today's Jerusalem the Church of the Holy Sepulchre shares ownership between six denominations all cooperating in harmony: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian. Each has a section under their responsibility, while the Rotunda is common to all.
Although quite unassuming from the outside, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is unique in its structure, and magnificent in its significance to Christians the world over.
As you enter the church, you can visit the ornate altar at Golgotha, situated on the site where Jesus was crucified; the visit culminates at the Rotunda where under the aedicule lies the Holy Sepulchre. Following modifications, one today can see the tomb and Angel stone.
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