Yesterday morning I attempted to go to church at the Church of the Nazarene near the Garden Tomb. However, I didn’t find it. So, I wandered back through the Damascus Gate towards the Holy Sepulcher. Once I got there I decided to make a brief tour of the church. So that’s what this is. Below is a map of the church, a video walk-through of the church, and information about each of the places in the video.
Below is information about each of the places I walked through in the video.
The Place of the Invention of the Cross – According to legend, Constantine’s mother, Helena, had a dream in which she saw the cross of Christ in the bottom of a well. This Chapel is the former location of that well. When Helena came to the well, she found not just one cross but three, Christ’s and one for each of the two thieves. To determine which cross was Christ’s a sick man was brought to touch each of the crosses. When he touched that of Christ he was instantly healed. This is the legend. Today you can find pieces of the so-called “true” cross in dozens, maybe even hundreds, of churches around the world.
The St. Helena Chapel – This is a chapel dedicated to Constantine’s mother. There is a seat in the southeast corner of this chapel which is supposedly where Helena sat in 351 CE while she searched for the cross.
The Chapel of the Division of Holy Robes – This is an Armenian chapel commemorating the division of Christ’s robes between the soldiers at the foot of His cross.
The Longinus Chapel – This is a Greek chapel dedicated to the memory of St. Longinus who, according to legend, is the Roman soldier who pierced Christ’s side and then converted.
The Holy Prison – According to a 12th-century tradition this prison housed Christ and the two thieves before their crucifixions.
The Altar of Mary Magdalene – This is the Roman Catholic area of the church and is supposed to be the place where Christ appeared to Mary after his resurrection.
The Jacobite Chapel – This is the Syrian chapel which contains a tomb supposedly owned by Joseph of Arimathea. There have been several fires in the church and this chapel has been severely damaged. However, nothing has been done to repair it.
The Coptic Chapel – This is a structure built on the back of the edicule (the name of the building commemorating the location of Christ’s tomb).
The Anastasis/Rotunda – This large domed building houses the edicule. The dome is painted with 12 stars whose rays symbolize the spreading of Christ’s message by each of the 12 apostles. The painting was designed by a man from South Dakota and was completed in 1997. Some of the columns around the edges of the rotunda are from the original church built here by Constantine in the 4th century.
The Edicule/Christ’s Tomb – This large, box-like structure is supported on the outside by scaffolding due to earthquakes which have caused severe damage to the church in the past. It is not very attractive. Inside the edicule are two rooms. The first is the Chapel of the Angels, which contains a piece of the stone which was rolled away from the tomb entrance by the angels at Christ’s resurrection. The second room is the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the actual site of the tomb. Covering the stone where Christ’s body was laid is a slab of marble upon which a vase with candles marks the spot where his head lay.
The Armenian Shrine – It’s just that, an Armenian shrine. I don’t know what it commemorates.
The Stone of the Unction – This is supposed to be the stone upon which Christ’s body was prepared for burial. In actuality, the stone that is now here was placed here in 1808 to replace the stone slab which had been placed there in the 12th century but destroyed.
The Chapel of the Derision – This is a Greek chapel which is also known as the Chapel of the Crowning of Thorns.
The Chapel of Adam – Within this chapel there is a cracked slab of rock behind panes of glass. There was a tradition, mentioned by Origen in the 2nd century, which said Christ was crucified over the place where Adam (the 1st man) was buried. The crack in the rock is supposed to be the result of the earthquake which followed Christ’s death.
Golgotha – This is reached by a steep stairway immediately to the right as you enter the church. On top of Golgotha are two chapels. The one on the right is the Catholic (Franciscan) Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross. The one on the left is a Greek chapel which is built upon the actual rock of Golgotha which the entire church was built around. Through the glass of the altar you can see the top of Golgotha and the three slots cut into the stone to hold the three crosses. One for Christ and the others for the two thieves.
At this point, my camera’s memory card was full. Fortunately, I made it to every location within the church that is reachable by a tourist. You may have noticed, Golgotha doesn’t look very much like the paintings you may have seen, and the tomb certainly doesn’t reside in the midst of a garden. I wish they did, but in the 4th century, when this church was initially built, the way of Constantine commemorated everything was by leveling everything but Golgotha and covering over it all with marble. I wish he hadn’t done that. It would be amazing to see these spots preserved as they were at the time of Christ. We’ll just have to wait for someone to invent a time machine so that we can go back and see how it was.