A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
Copyright 1998, 2013 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.
Photography by the Author.
Photographs may not be reproduced without permission.

Of all the places I’ve been in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of my favorites. The venerable building, parts of which are over 1600 years old, commemorates the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

The church was built starting in 326 AD by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated in 335 AD. It originally consisted of three connected structures: a basilica, called the Martyrium; an open-air atrium called the Triportico that was built around a protruding rock, the traditional Rock of Calvary; and an open-air rotunda, called the Anastasis (Resurrection), which contained the remains of a cave, the traditional burial site of Jesus. By the end of the 4th century the Anastasis had been covered by a dome.

Twice destroyed (614 and 1009 AD) and rebuilt (628 and 1048 AD), the church was last rebuilt, as a single, large structure, during the Crusader Period and re-dedicated on July 15, 1149.

Most of the visible, external structure of today dates from the Crusader period or later but evidence from earlier periods can be seen inside, e.g., walls, arches, floors, etc. Parts of the rotunda and some of the north wall, as well as foundation components not open to the public, date back to the original Constantine structure.

The original entrance was on the east end of the Martyrium, facing the Cardo. When rebuilt by the Crusaders, the main entrance was moved to the south side of the church. Originally the Crusaders built two side-by-side doors but after the Muslims regained control of Jerusalem under Saladin in 1187, the right hand door was sealed. The left hand door is the entrance used today for entering the church.

Main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - last rebuilt by the
Crusaders in the 12th century.


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