The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the Church of the Resurrection

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The church of the Holy Sepulchre is also called by the Orthodox Christians, the Church of the Resurrection, because not death but resurrection is the foundation of Christian victory. The Holy Sepulcher Church is a settlement that the Crusaders had built in the eleventh century in place of the ancient churche built by Empress and Saint Helena in the fourth century in Jerusalem. The church bares the most precious vestiges for Christians: Mount Calvary and the Tomb of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here, it is also found the cave where the Holy Cross – that our Lord was crucified on –  was discovered by Empress Helena (the mother of St Constantine the Great).

The church of the Holy Sepulcher was built on the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried in a tomb carved in stone as the Holy Scripture testifies. It is also called the church of the Resurrection for here our Lord has Risen. ..

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Holy Sepulchre Church – brief history

Immediately after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior, the places of Golgotha and of the Holy Sepulchre (the Holy Tomb) were not only revered as sacred by the Apostles but also by all Christians. After defeating the last Jewish revolt, the Roman Emperor Adrian, who did neither tolerated the Jews nor the Christians, commended that all Christian and Jewish buildings be desecrated and turned  into pagan edifices. In the place of Golgotha, a pagan temple was built insead.

In the early fourth century, the pagan temple was destroyed and in its place a vast complex of buildings was built in memory of the last moments of Jesus earthly life.

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After the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (in 325), the Emperor Constantine the Great commanded Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem to destroy the pagan temple dedicated to pagan godess Venus and Jupiter, and to build the most beautiful basilica in the world using marble and other fine materials.

The architects that designed this basilica were Zenobiu and Eustatiu.  In 335, assembled in the local Synod of Tyre, the bishops consecrated the new basilica, which will bear the name of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Starting with the fourth and until the seventh century, the Holy Sepulchre church knows its time of glory becoming a place of pilgrimage for many Christians. However, its dark period begins with the seventh century.

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In the year 614, during the Persian invasion of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre church was burned and the Holy Cross of our Saviour stolen. The Emperor Heraclius recovered it, and the patriarch of Jerusalem has rebuilt its damaged parts. But the dark age continued as many other invaders repeatedly brought not only damage to the churchbut also to Christians, many faithful been killed by the most dreadful tortures.

The Arab conquest in 632 ended the Byzantine influence in this region. However the Caliph Omar had instituted tolerance and the church was preserved. Later, in the ninth century Caliph Hakim had ordered the destruction of the church from its foundation. In a chronicle of John the Antioch, it is mentioned how the entire church was destroyed, except for those parts that were more difficult to move, such as of Anastasis rotunda, which exist up to today.

In the early eleventh century the Christian complex existant here is completely destroyed by the order of an egyptian caliph, but the Byzantine emperors had rebuilt it shortly thereafter. In those days of the Christian Crusades, other chapels and churches united under the same roof  had been added to the initial building. The Crusaders started to renovate the church and added a bell. These renovations are completed during the reign of Queen Melisende in the year 1149. This building was the inspiration for many Christian churches in Europe.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Piatra Ungerii, iar la etaj Golgota

The Holy Sepulchre is shared by the Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic churches. It is an edifice of red granite having a large number of candlesticks.

To avoid religions discussions, a functioning status was carried out to define the rights of each Christian denomination in the Holy Land. The Orthodox have the area in front of the tomb of our Lord, that is surrounded by walls and constitutes the place of their worship. Here the Orthodox Patriarch officiates the liturgy on Holy and  Great Saturday when  the miracle of the Holy Fire occurs.

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The white marble columns (see photo above) of the left entrance are cracked at the bottom. The Holy tradition tells us that one year, the Orthodox Christians not having money to pay the taxes imposed by the Turks in order to enter the Holy Sepulchre, remained outside of the church. Then, miraculously, the Divine (Holy) Fire that came each year on Holy and Great Saturday at the tomb of our Lord during Orthodox Liturgy, hit the outside columns instead where Orthodox Christians were waiting, and the miracle took place outside of the church. These visible signs remained until today as a testimony of this great miracle of Orthodox Christianity.

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The Holy Sepulcher church preserves more than few precious places of worship; one of which is the stone called „the Holy Unction”  – a slab of red stone that protects the place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had placed our Lord’s body after taking it down from the cross – as the Evangelist Matthew relates (cf. Mt. 28, 57-60). A mosaic in front of it portrays this frightening event.

Around this marble, covered with ointment and rose petals, the Orthodox faithful chant the vespers of lamentation for our Lord’s burial on Great and Holy Friday.

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 A chapel with  two altars is found near this place, to the east side of the church. The chapel is built on the rock of Mount Calvary, the place where Jesus Christ was crucified. On the right side of the first altar,  a cross marks the spot where Jesus was stripped of his clothes and nailed to the cross. In the middle of the main altar, called the “Holy Golgotha” was the place of the crucifixion of our Lord. Nearby there is an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was pierced like a sword seeing her beloved Son crucified among thieves (cf. Lamentations for Great and Holy Friday).

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - mozaicul de pe Golgota

Nearby, another chapel was built in the place where – according to the tradition – our Saviour appeared the Holy Virgin Mary after His resurrection. This chapel is thought to be built over the place in the pretorium when the Roman soldiers beat and abused Jesus. Here the tradition tells us that the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the time and the Holy Empress Helena had touched a dead man by the precious and life-giving Cross of our Lord, and the dead  rose to life.

The following chapel is the chapel of the “Crown of thorns” found close to the crucifixion site. Here is where our Lord was crowned with thorns by the Roman soldiers. The remains of the pillar – believed to be part of the column where Jesus sat while crowned with thorns in the pretorium – is paced in a marble surrounded by glass. On  the Holy and Great Friday before Easter, many believers place their ears on this holy piece of marble, and can hear sounds of Jesus suffering, when His hands and feet was beat with hammer and nailed to the cross.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Golgota, locul Rastignirii

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Golgota, locul Rastignirii

During the time of Constantine the Great, the Holy Empress Helena (his mother) came to Jerusalem and been informed  by locals where to dig up,  had found three crosses.  The Holy tradition tells us that no one knew which of the three crosses was the one our Lord was crucified on, so they took all three crosses and went to the Holy Sepulchre. A convoy carrying a dead person was passing by.  The Patriarch and Empress Helena ordered that the dead may be touched with all three crosses they found. When the dead was touched by the cross on which Jesus was crucified, he rose from death.

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The Holy Tomb of our Lord is found on the west side of the Holy Sepulcher, in the middle of the church, in a circular place sustained by tall arches.

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The Angel Chapel is the first room of the Holy Tomb.

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On entering the Holy Tomb, an icon of the resurrection of our Lord carries the inscription: “Seeing the resurrection of Christ, worship HIM all you people!  All faithful to worship you the life giving tomb  –  as you buried Christ God and in you He was resurrected “…” Those of you who deny the resurrection of the bodies, by entering the tomb of Christ, know that He died and rose again, to entrust us of our resurrection at The End.”

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Near the Holy Tomb,  another church was built – called the Church of the Resurrection. This church is located in the center of the entire complex and belongs exclusively to the Orthodox Church. This is the cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre. Here the Orthodox faithful officiate daily Liturgy with the participation of a great assembly of priests and bishops.

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Under the same rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre  other Christian shrines are also found.

The altar of “Sharing of Thy garments”  is found near the “Golgotha. In this place the Roman soldiers threw dices for Jesus’ clothes:  (cf. John 19, 23-24)

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 The Church of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the holiest place on earth. The greatest wonders of Christianity occurred here and they continue today. This Holy Place deepens the faith of  many Christians and converts others that perhaps came  here as simple tourists and returned home  no longer ordinary men but authentic Christians.

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