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Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Jerusalem, Israel.

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This chapel marks the traditional site of Jesus' crucifixion at Golgotha, or Calvary, and of his burial and resurrection. There is archaeological evidence that Golgatha was once a place of pagan sanctity and it is traditionally claimed that the skull of Adam is buried there. At Golgatha is the cave shrine where some sources say Jesus was entombed. According to Christian tradition, its location was determined by the Byzantine Empress Helena in 326 AD. Helena believed the Roman Emperor Hadrian had constructed a pagan temple to Jupiter and Venus on the site in 135 AD. She sponsored excavations at Hadrian's temple, uncovering the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea and three crosses, which she assumed had been left after the crucifixion. According to the four gospels, Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple of Jesus, had obtained the body of Jesus from Pilate and buried it in his own tomb site.

Emperor Constantine built a church over the tomb site in 335 AD and remains of the original structure underlie the present church built by the Crusaders in 1048. Inside the church is the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed burial place. The raised marble block that is used as an altar covers the rock on which Jesus' body was laid. Concerning the matter of whether Jesus was buried here and, even more important, whether he died upon the cross at all, there is no historical evidence whatsoever. When presented with this matter, devout Christians will offer ‘proof’ by quoting various passages from the Gospels. However, it must be emphasized that the gospels are not accurate historical records but rather a compilation of beliefs and theories composed by numerous, often contradictory writers, over a period of hundreds of years. Mention should also be made of scholarly research which contradicts the crucifixion story; of the many legends from Asia which indicate Jesus traveled in those areas after the supposed time of his crucifixion; and of the legend that Christ finally died and was buried in the town of Srinagar in the Himalayan mountains of Kashmir.

Photo: Interior of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre

More about the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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