Holy Sepulcher Basilica, Jerusalem, Israel

The Supreme Temple of the Old Christian Churches

Incense moment
Orthodox priest spreads incense at the entrance to the Aedicule.
Ethiopian believer prostrates himself on the Stone of Unction, at the entrance to the roundabout where the Holy Sepulcher Building is located.
Incense burners hang from the vault of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Altar of the Crucifixion
Faithful in front of the Crucifixion Altar of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
Trio of believers arriving from Ethiopia dazzled by the magnificence of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
Vault God Almighty
The dome painting of the Almighty Christ.
Throne of Joseph of Arimathea
Ethiopian faithful prostrate themselves on the throne of Joseph of Arimathea, the senator who removed Christ's body from the cross and buried him.
At the door of the Aedicule
Orthodox priest at the entrance to the Aedicule.
Coptic priests
Coptic religious seated in a corner of the Coptic wing of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
Atrium of the Aedicule
Orthodox priest at the entrance to the Aedicule.
Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher
The ancient facade of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
Corner of Crosses
Crosses arranged in the Coptic outer space of the basilica.
Coptic kiss
A Coptic priest greets a child who is the daughter of another Coptic believer.
Incense burners hang from the vault of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
Picture depicts the time between the end of the crucifixion and the burial of Jesus Christ.
Incensers II
Incense burners, golden purifiers of the Christian faith.
another sacred place
Ethiopian Christians enter Joseph of Arimathea's room.
Flames of Faith
Faithful from Eastern Europe lights candles next to the aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher.
It was built by Emperor Constantine, on the site of Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection and an ancient temple of Venus. In its genesis, a Byzantine work, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is, today, shared and disputed by various Christian denominations as the great unifying building of Christianity.

The movable railings used to limit visitors' access to the interior of the Aedicule are identified in English and Hebrew.

This is how the sacred and gilded chapel containing the tomb of Jesus and the Angel's Chapel is known, a chamber in which it is believed that there is a fragment of the slab that sealed it and which the Gospel of Matthew describes as having been removed by an angel descended from heaven, during the visit of Mary Magdalene.

According to Matthew, the action of the angel caused a great earthquake. The sight of the angel of God and the shaking will have terrified the tomb watchers as they were dying.

The angel reassured Mary Magdalene and the Marys who accompanied her and moved them to acknowledge the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that they could witness it to the disciples.

Rich as it is, Matthew's narrative has given rise to different interpretations.

Even today, a common misconception is pointed out: the fact that too many Christians teach and learn that it was the action of the angel – read the removal of the slab – that made the Resurrection possible.

The Religious Core of the Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher

Whichever version they believe in, they are Christian believers, the ones we see grouped in the roundabout surrounding the Aedicule, under the supervision of the Almighty Christ, painted on the vault above.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian Churches, Vault Almighty God

The dome painting of the Almighty Christ.

Unlike what happens in the streets and alleys of the Christian Quarter and other surrounding neighborhoods, Israeli Defense Forces soldiers do not follow the railings. They are absent from the Aedicule and from the basilica in general.

Instead, Orthodox priests in cassocks of the most varied shades and patterns wave censers so as to spread purifying fumes and aromas over the believers.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, priest with insensate

Orthodox priest spreads incense at the entrance to the Aedicule.

Others, assistants in black cassocks, control the number of people inside and outside the small chapel and validate the entry of new groups.

For most visitors, passing through the Edicule proves to be a breathtaking moment, unique in all its historical and, above all, religious dimension.

Other sections of the great basilica cause their own shivers and tears of faith.

From Crucifixion to Resurrection: The Biblical Itinerary of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher

This is the case of the Stone of Anointing at the entrance, where we see an Ethiopian believer prostrate for so long that, at times, we fear she might have fainted.

Another one, with a Slav, Ukrainian or Russian look, who wept compulsively in front of the Altar of the Crucifixion.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, prostration

Ethiopian believer prostrates himself on the Stone of Unction, at the entrance to the roundabout where the Holy Sepulcher Building is located.

And, in the chapel of José de Arimateia, of two other faithful, wrapped in white robes.

They kissed the throne of the man St. Mark described as a member of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, a wealthy politician and a righteous believer and supporter of Jesus, the senator who obtained permission from Pilate to remove the body of Christ, pierced by centurion longinus, of the cross.

It was José de Arimathea who buried him.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, prostration throne Joseph of Arimathea

Ethiopian faithful prostrate themselves on the throne of Joseph of Arimathea, the senator who removed Christ's body from the cross and buried him.

The more we explore its corners, sometimes golden and resplendent, sometimes gloomy, the more we are confronted with the richness and ethnic and cultural dynamics of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, symptomatic of the geographic amplitude that Christianity quickly conquered.

The Byzantine Genesis (Roman Emperor Constantine) of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher

In the year 325, twelve years after the Milan Edict (of Tolerance towards Christians) decreed by Constantine, Helena, the emperor's mother traveled to Jerusalem accompanied by two other emissaries, in a quest for places and items related to the last days of Christ.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, candles

Faithful from Eastern Europe lights candles next to the aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher.

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, Helen of Constantinople found Calvary – the rock that had supported the crosses – and the tomb that received the body of Jesus Christ.

The Christian narratives guarantee that they also identified the crosses used to crucify the thieves and the one on which Jesus Christ perished, known as the True Cross.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, altar of the crucifixion

Faithful in front of the Crucifixion Altar of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

Shortly afterwards, influenced by his mother, Constantine I – the first Christian Roman Emperor – extended his faith.

He decreed the construction of a worthy Christian temple in place of another of Venus, previously commissioned by Emperor Hadrian.

At the time, it was necessary to decide what type of building would be built. And the use of the lines of the temples of the Roman gods made no sense.

The solution found by the architects was to recover and adapt the structure, in Hellenic origin, of the buildings in which the Romans carried out commercial, administrative and judicial interactions.

Holy Sepulcher Basilica, Jerusalem, Christian Churches,

The ancient facade of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Romans continued to treat these buildings as basilicas. Like so many others, Greeks and Romans, both the term and the type of structure accompanied the worldwide proliferation of Christianity.

The basilica of the Holy Sepulcher of Constantine was completed in 335 AD. It contained both the rock of Mount Calvary of the Crucifixion and the tomb of the Resurrection.

The basilica of the Holy Sepulcher stood out in a place called the Skull (Golgotha), at the time, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, east of the city walls, north and west of a quarry.

The Troubled Journey of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Time

We remain in the grip of the secular mysticism of the basilica, which has long been the site of the last three stations of the Jerusalem's Via Crucis.

A single door gives access to the temple. At the opposite ends of this entrance, passing through the omphalo stone – the Christian navel of the world – we give an exit to the “rear” of the Coptic Patriarchate and the Cistern of Santa Elena.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, Ethiopian faithful

Trio of believers arriving from Ethiopia dazzled by the magnificence of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

There we find two Coptic priests in the shadow of a corner, at the corner of a small staircase, under a tiny chime of bells.

We see them kissing children from Coptic families who pass by to greet them and obtain their blessing.

The permanent and dedicated presence of this last Christian subdivision intensifies our curiosity about how the basilica would be shared among the different denominations.

The present-day Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher appears near the northwest corner of the walled city of Jerusalem. Victim of the violence of the story, it is far from the original.

In the year 614, the warriors of the Sassanid Empire plundered Jerusalem. They took with them almost all the treasures of the basilica. As if that wasn't enough, a fire caused by them caused serious damage to the building.

Twenty-four years later, Muslims took over the ancient Roman region of Palestine, Jerusalem included. The caliphs began by allowing the discordant presence of the basilica, but in 1009, Alaqueme Biamir Alá ordered the destruction of all the churches in the city. From the Holy Sepulcher, little was left.

The decision of this Fatimid caliph made the Papacy realize the vulnerability of the Christian heritage of Jerusalem in the hands of Muslims. It reinforced the urgency of the First Crusade (1099), which culminated in the siege and Christian conquest of Jerusalem.

On taking the Holy City, the Crusaders came across the church as we found it, except for some subsequent damage caused by later fires and the earthquake of 1927.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, the door of the aedicule

Orthodox priest at the entrance to the Aedicule.

The Crusaders and their complex and troubled states resisted the Muslim reconquests as best they could.

In the early 1th century, the Ottomans took Jerusalem. They preserved control of the city until they were defeated in World War I.

The Divisions and Disputes of the Various Churches Custodians of the Basilica

For, in 1757 and 1852, Osman III and Abdul Mejid, Ottoman sultans in their respective years, issued documents on how the ownership and responsibility of the different parts of Israel and Palestine should be divided.

Just like today, claimed by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

In 1929, with Jerusalem already under British Mandate, LGA Cust, a mere English civil servant, drew up the document Status Quo that prevails.

According to this Status Quo, the main custodians of the basilica are the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches, with the former holding most of the temple.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, crosses

Crosses arranged in the Coptic outer space of the basilica.

During the XNUMXth century, in order to get around their marginalization, the Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox churches were assigned smaller shrines and other structures around the main building, such as the outer space where we live with Coptic priests.

The basilica is divided, to the centimeter, according to its wards. Each of the spaces and heritage is governed by a myriad of intricate rules.

And yet, none of the powerful custodian churches manage the main entrance. By the ancestral responsibility of Sultan Saladin who, in 1187, entrusted the keys to the Joudeh Al Goudia family and made sure that, a millennium later, they continued to be held by Muslims.

All "problems" were that.

In spite of the sanctified and sanctifying image of the priests who manage the temple, from time to time, they indulge in rants of discussion and even brawling.

Physical Conflicts Generated by the Guard of the Basilica

In November 2008, the Internet revealed to the world videos of a kind of boxing match in cassocks between Armenian and Greek monks. It is also known that a tiny portion of the basilica's roof raises a fierce dispute between the Copts and the Ethiopians.

In such a way that at least one Coptic priest – probably one of those we met – remains seated claiming this place.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Christian churches, Coptic priests

Coptic religious seated in a corner of the Coptic wing of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

Narratives emerged that, at some point in the story, one of these monks moved the chair he was sitting on a few inches to get shade.

Such a move was seen by the rival church as a usurper and provoked a new beating. Eleven religious ended up at the hospital. These are just a few examples.

before this Status quo, any work or renovation of the temple is almost impossible which has caused an inevitable decay of the basilica.

Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem, Censors

Incense burners hang from the vault of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.

Not to mention the case of the famous Staircase.

This ladder was placed in 1757 by a mason who was carrying out a job and will have forgotten about it. That same year, the Ottoman division of the basilica came into force and, according to the royal decree, "everything should stay as it was".

Over the centuries, the ladder has been used for the most different purposes.

Even so, in the troubled year 2021 we live in, it's still where the Status Quo determined it.

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