More details about Holy Sepulcher, the most important shrine in the Christian world
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Golgotha or Calvary is where Jesus (pbuh) was crucified. On this hilltop the Roman Catholics celebrate the tenth to the thirteenth Stations of the Cross. The church is split in two parts. The left section belongs to the Greek Orthodox and the right to the Roman Catholics. The tenth station is commemorated at the top of the stairs leading to Calvary where Jesus (pbuh) was stripped of his garments. The eleventh station is at the silver altar where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The twelfth station is on the Greek Orthodox altar, where Jesus died upon the cross. The limestone rock underneath shows where the Cross of Jesus stood as well as the crosses of the two thieves crucified with him. The great schism which was caused by the earthquake that took place at the time of Christ’s death is also visible.
The thirteenth station is on the Roman Catholic side where Jesus (pbuh) was taken down from the cross. This is commemorated at the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Chapel of St. Adam (pbuh) below Calvary commemorates the parallel between St. Adam (pbuh), the first man, through whom the human race first sinned, and the new Adam, Jesus Christ (pbuh) by whom the human race is saved.
Excavations here show the remains of the Crusader and Byzantine churches in addition to the walls of the Herodian temple. The remains, together with other artifacts found here point to the authenticity of this place as the place of the crucifixion.
The Stone of Unction
At the foot of Golgotha, is the stone of Unction or of Anointing. It is a polished red stone about six meters long and one meter wide. According to tradition, the body of Jesus (pbuh) was anointed and prepared here for burial.
The Rotunda and the Tomb of Christ
In the center of the Rotunda stands the empty tomb of Christ or the Edicule.
On either side of the Edicule are two lines of candlesticks that belong to the Greek Orthodox, the Armenians and the Roman Catholics. They are lit according to the rite that is being celebrated. In front of the Edicule, there are four rows of lamps.
The interior of the Edicule is lined with marble and decorated with pictures, hangings, lamps and candelabra, which are numerically, divided between the three principal communities, Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Roman Catholics.
There is almost always a line of people waiting to enter the Edicule. The space is confined and no more than four people can be admitted at one time. People usually spend about three minutes praying inside.
The Catholicon or Greek Cathedral
The Greeks In 1808-1810 set up high walls cutting off the center of the basilica. A cupola covers the western part of the church. Under the Cupola is a small marble hemisphere, which marks the so-called center of the world.
In the Catholicon, the Greeks celebrate the Washing of the Feet on the Thursday before Easter and Good Friday, which culminate in a ceremonial burial of an icon of Christ. The most elaborate celebration however is that on Faster Eve, during which all the lamps are extinguished and the crowd is left in total darkness. Orthodox clergy then proceed with the Armenian Patriarch to the Edicule, where the light is then kindled and passed on to the people. This proclaims the Resurrection.
The Franciscan Chapels and the Ambulatory
The chapel of the Apparition or the Appearance of the Risen Christ to St. Mary Magdalene, or St. Mary Magdalene’s chapel. The Column of Flagellation is found in this chapel, to which Jesus (pbuh) was bound when he was scourged by the Roman soldiers.
The chapels of St. Helena and the Invention of the Cross
The chapel of St. Helena belongs to the Armenians. The northern altar is dedicated to the Penitent Thief and tile center altar to St. Helena. But the Armenians now hold it in honor of their national saint, St. Gregory the Illuminator. There is a seat adjoining this altar. Legend has it that this was the seat used by St. Helena while the Cross was being excavated.
In the Chapel of the Invention or Finding of the Cross, on 7 May, the Franciscan Custodian celebrates the Feast of the Invention of the Cross, carrying one of the Relics of the Cross and placing it above the altar. Behind the altar is a large bronze statue of St. Helena. On the right of the altar is a small cistern where the Crosses of Jesus (pbuh) and the two thieves are said to be found.
In this chapel the Franciscans celebrate certain ceremonies including the visits by the Latin Patriarch.