Spiritual inspiration on our Holy Land tour
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular tours that we offer is our inspirational week-long visit to the Holy Land; a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the many amazing landmarks that this truly spiritual location has to offer.
In the first of our ‘Highlights of the Holy Land’ blogs, we are taking a more detailed look at one of our favourite places to visit; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Why is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre so important to Christians?
Located in the North West Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the home of two of the most venerated sites for Christians: the place where Jesus was crucified and also the location of his tomb.
The church also contains the last four Stations of the Cross which form the Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way). The tomb itself is housed within a shrine called the Aedicula.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is small when compared with many of the world’s great cathedrals, yet it is absolutely packed full of spiritual delights and wonders.
Many Christians and visitors of all faiths flock here year round to experience its inspirational and uplifting sights.
A long history
According to the New Testament, the location of the crucifixion was Golgotha or ‘the place of the skull’ which was identified in the gospels of Matthew and Mark and in John Chapter 19 vs.17:
“and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha”
Golgotha is also often referred to as ‘Calvary’ which is derived from the Latin translation of ‘skull’.
John also placed the location of Jesus’ tomb near to the crucifixion site and it is believed that ten years after his death, a wall was built around the area which enclosed it into the City of Jerusalem where it remains to this day.
In AD 130 the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered that the rock tomb be filled-in and a temple built on the site dedicated to Venus/Jupiter.
The first church and shrine around the tomb were built by the Roman Emperor Constantine who was a convert to Christianity in the 4th century. He was inspired by his mother St Helena who went on a pilgrimage to the area and found three crosses whilst investigating the location.
There then ensued a long period where a number of different church buildings were damaged or destroyed, either deliberately or accidentally over the centuries.
The crusaders entered the city in 1099 and created the form of the church that still exists today, which is an architectural combination of its earlier Byzantine style and the alterations that they made.
A fire in 1808 and an earthquake in 1927 both caused major damage and the church continues to undergo regular renovation programmes, with the most recent being to the tomb in 2016/2017.
In 1852, a status quo sharing agreement was created which defined how the church would be jointly managed between three Christian denominations: the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian churches.
The Holy Sepulchre remains an active church, and all three denominations hold mass there on a daily basis.
Things to see
Many people visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre simply to experience the atmosphere of this most holy of places. Packed with important religious artefacts and history, there is so much to see and absorb.
Most pilgrims and Christian travellers are focused on the sites of the crucifixion and resurrection, including:
The 10th station of the cross is a tiny chapel marking the location where it is believed that Jesus was required to remove his garments before being crucified.
The Roman Catholic Chapel of the of the Nailing of the Cross is the 11th station.
The Rock of Calvary where Jesus was crucified is the 12th station of the cross. It is possible to touch the stone through a small window.
A statue of the Virgin Mary at the 13th station marks the place where Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross.
The Stone of Unction is believed to be where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial. Pilgrims like to rub the stone with a cloth as a sacred memento.
The 14th Station of the cross is the rotunda where you will see the Aedicula, the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus’ body was taken after his death.
This area has been recently renovated to allow a glimpse of the ancient burial cave itself and you can also see the Angel’s stone, which is thought to be a small piece of the original stone which sealed the tomb.
Our tour of the Holy Land
To experience the many wonders of the Holy Land, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, join us on our next tour.
We look forward to travelling with you soon!