Church of Holy Sepulchre interior – Israel

Courtyard and Entrance

Considering this is potentially the most important site in Christendom, the façade of the Church is fairly non-descript.

Stairway leading to the top of Calvary

The interior of the Church is entirely paved over.  Any hope of seeing what Golgotha may have looked like at the time of Christ quickly vanishes when you enter. Here is the set of stairs that lead to the top of what the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics believe to have been Calvary.

Originally a quarry area, it is impossible to know where exactly Christ may have been crucified. It was most likely somewhere within (or under) the enclosed area of the Church. It may very well be that Christ was not crucified atop Calvary, but in front of it near the roadway of the day. 

Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Chapels atop Calvary

After climbing the few short steps leading to a raised section of the Church, you will enter the area of both the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Chapels.  This area straddles the rock believed to be the remnants of Golgotha.  

The Greek Orthodox Chapel is on the left and the Roman Catholic one is on the right.

Chapel of Adam and the Rock of Calvary

Back down on the main floor and directly beneath the Chapels atop Calvary, is the Chapel of Adam. The Eastern Orthodox Church (i.e., the Greek Orthodox Church) holds to the tradition that Adam himself was buried here. Symbolic at best, Noah’s Flood would preclude knowledge of any burial site.  

However, there is a rock that is a remnant of the 1st Century Quarry found here.  A crack is visible in this rock. The Eastern Orthodox believe this crack was created by the earthquake which took place once Christ died (Matthew 27: 51). There my be something to this. Others hold that the crack represented a flaw in the original limestone of the hill that caused builders to move on to other parts of the quarry.  The closeup shows just how much of a gap exists in the rock.

The further down you go in the Church, the more opportunity there is to see some of the original Golgotha rock.

The Unction Stone or “Stone of Anointing”

For some reason, the place that seems to evoke the most emotion from visitors is the Stone of Unction. According to tradition, this 18 x 6 foot red stone is the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus:

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. John 19: 38 – 40 

Who knows the exact place where this took place?  Again, most likely it was somewhere in this locale.