Sunday, August 09, 2009

Jerusalem Doors II, Church of the Holy Seulchre

Below is the main door leading in (or out) of Christendom's most revered religious site: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Though now inside the walls of the Old City, the site on which the church stands was outside of the city at the time of Christ's death and is said to include Calvary and the Joseph of Arimathea's grave.

The site and the church have a fascinating tradition: early Christians were said to worship at this site and though they fled from Jerusalem when Titus attacked the city in AD 70, they later returned to worship at Calvary and the tomb. In an attempt to keep discourage Christian worship, Hadrian had a temple to Venus built on the site, ironically, marking the site for good.

When the Emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, converted to Christianity, she had a church built on the site; the church has been destroyed and rebuilt more than once, with the current church dating back to the time of the Crusades in the 12th century.

Another door, located off the main courtyard of the church

And who is the keeper of this basilica? Talk about confusing. I've heard the explanation several times but I still need to copy it from an old Fodor's travel guide:

"By a tradition established by Saladin to avoid misunderstandings among the different Christian sects, the keys of the Church were kept by the Moslem family of Joudeh, and the opener of the door was a member of the Moslem family of Nuseibah. At Easter, three sects are allowed to have the long, curiously-shaped key. On the Holy Thursday it goes to the head of the Franciscan Monastery; on Good Friday, to the chief Dragoman of the Greek Orthodox Monastery, and on Holy Saturday to the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church. An 18th-century decree gave six churches the right to share the sanctuary: Latin (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian (Jacobite) and Abyssinian. The latter two are allowed the privilege only for special ceremonies during the year. No Protestant sect has the right to share the sanctuary. The status quo and the designation of space within the sanctuary are jealously guarded by each denomination and regrettably have often been obstacles to restoration of the church."

An interior door

Door to the Coptic Chapel

And, here's a fantastic site with great pictures, maps, and in-depth information about the authenticity of the site: Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.

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