In my research report, I will propose topics related to this idea and will briefly describe where it was built, what was the purpose of its architecture, and changes that have occurred in its structure. This topic will conclude briefly about why it is so important and the idea behind the phrase “it is the most sacred place on earth,” and many Christians believe that it marks the place where Jesus was crucified and buried, and where he rose again from the dead. It is also identified as a special place of pilgrimage. This place is considered as the location of the burial of Jesus. This research paper will be based on the book “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: The History of Christianity in Jerusalem and the Holy City’s Most Important Church”, by Kosta Kafarakis and Charles River Editors.
The history of the early church is marked with many events which all contributed to the foundation of Christianity in the world. Some of the major events that marked the foundation of the Christian faith include Christian persecutions and war between the Arabs and the Romans. Some emperors who ruled during these periods contributed to these wars by either giving support to one side or ruling in favor of the religion they believed in. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks some of these major events.
Description of Where the Church Built
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is identified as the most famous church in Jerusalem. The church is also recognized as the church of the resurrection. It was built during St. Constantine’s era. The uniqueness of this church is that its history is not separable from that of the City of Jerusalem and the surrounding settings (Kafarakis 1). The church is also said to be at the same place where both the burial and crucifixion of Jesus occurred. These major events, as well as other factors, have made the church a significant pilgrimage site for the believers of Christ. Also, it was identified as the location of many types of the Council (Kafarakis 1). Some of which ended up altering the history of the Christians forever. Currently, the church is considered to be the home of the Greek Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate (Kafarakis 1). Jerusalem and Sepulchre were and are still synonymous, and the church is also identified as the nodal center of the city of Jerusalem.
On the same note, the church is associated with tumultuous events in its history, just like the City of Jerusalem, which confirm the synonymous nature between the two. For example, under the reign of Emperor Vespasian, Jerusalem was plagued by attacks such as the invasion and depopulation by forces from Rome in 70 CE (Kafarakis 2). During this period, the city of Jerusalem was razed, decimated, and depopulated. However, in 135AD, the Emperor Hadrian took over the reign and rebuilt the city. During his era, the city was rebuilt as an outpost owned by the Romans and was renamed as “Aelia Capitolina.” During the reign of St. Constantine, the respite from dislocation and wars were not provided (Kafarakis 2). After the renovation of the city, the Emperor Hadrian came up with changes aimed at achieving transformation and peace in the city, which included chasing the Jews away from the city.
Figure 1: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Kafakaris 1)
The Purpose of its Architecture
The success of the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre can be attributed to the reign of Emperor Constantine. However, a lot of dramatic events took place before its completion, with one being that the emperor was not a Christian initially. Before his reign, Emperor Diocletian had foreseen the persecution of the Christians which came to an end after Constantine was converted to Christianity (Powers 14). His conversion was marked by changes in the city, including the fact that he issued laws in which Christians were granted with special privileges. In addition to this, the emperor began involving himself in other activities that aimed at enriching the life of the Christians (Powers 14). For instance, he convened the church councils and even enforced the decisions he made through the state powers. It was during his relation with the members of the church that he met with a Bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, that he was challenged to bring up the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Powers 14). The purposes of bringing up the church were mainly two, which included, getting rid of the pagan structures that were erected by Emperor Hadrian and also to marking the commemoration of the crucifixion, death, and rising of Jesus Christ (Powers 14).
Bishop Macarius challenged the emperor to foresee that the pagan temples erected on the holiest places in the world should be scrapped off. Therefore, it became the wish of the emperor that upon the location of the tomb where Jesus was put to rest, a place of worship should be erected near it (Powers 14). Both the advisors who received orders from the Emperor and the Bishop scrutinized the history of Jerusalem and found out that the tomb of Jesus was beneath the temple of the pagans that had been erected by Emperor Hadrian (Powers 14). Excavation practices were then issued where the engineers and other manual laborers started by dismantling the pagan temple. The second exercise involved getting rid of the massive amounts of fill material that lay beneath the temple. Some eyewitnesses, such as Eusebius, narrated the excavation practices and to the rediscovery of Jesus’ tomb (Powers 15). According to Eusebius, the removal of the fill exposed the original surface of the earth led to the discovery the monument where the Savior was resurrected. Therefore, the discovery of the tomb of Jesus marked one of the biggest achievements of Emperor Constantine’s reign (Powers 15). The original intention of Emperor Hadrian, which was to ensure full eradication of the world’s most sacred place, was overcome. Critics argue that the intent of the emperor was an advantage because it helped preserve the memory of the tomb of Jesus (Powers 15).
The individuals who developed the church were faced with many challenges, with one of them being that they had to dismantle and remove the structures erected by Emperor Hadrian. The second challenge was that they had to excavate the old materials (Powers 15). The third problem was that they were establishing the church on a quarry; they had to excavate the uneven bedrock and come up with foundations that would carry the walls of the church.
Evidence that Jesus’ tomb was located in this place is attributed to a few factors. One of them is that the location was backed up with common sense as well as the apostolic tradition (Powers 15). Additionally, the discovery is near the Olive Mountain, and the area surrounding the cave is marked with changed topography which can be attributed to the warfare by the Roman legionaries (Powers 15). Equally important, the fact that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in the location amid all the difficulties related to topography and the nature of the surface is a sure sign and genuineness of the place (Powers 15). In brief, the church would have been erected elsewhere, and historical traditions would have been led to other locations.
Describe Some of the Eras That Conclude the Changes of its Structure
The First Era
After Jesus had been crucified, Jerusalem Jewish rulers who were mainly the members of the priesthood believed that the spread of Christianity would disappear because the disciples had already dispersed. The book of the New Testament outlines an incident where both John and Peter attended the temple in Jerusalem at the eleventh hour (Kafarakis 18). The bible clearly highlights the existence of the church, “On their entrance to the church, they came across a man who was lame from their time of birth” (Acts 3: 1-10). The lame man was begging for silver and gold, the disciples instead performed a miracle, and the man was healed. According to Kafarakis, the miracle is considered as the “consecration” of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because its foundation was very close to the place where the miracle occurred (20).
The Second Era
The period is marked with many events of trying to unite the different religions in the city of Jerusalem. For instance, before the Fourth Ecumenical Council was called to an end, rumors were spreading that Nestorian heresy would be adopted (Kafarakis 40). Also, the Patriarch Juvenal undermined their authority by participating in the Council of Robber of 449. The participation brought in some mixed opinions with the major one being the semi-monophysite point of view (Kafarakis 40). The consequence of this involvement led to the Palestinian Monk daring to announce as a self-proclamation of being the Patriarch of Jerusalem. However, after the death of Elias 1, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Olympus, who was the Palestinian governor, was ordered to ensure that the Monophysites and the Orthodox reunited under any cost (Kafarakis 50).
The Third Era (638 – 1099)
The era is marked with many conquests by the Arabic army. Initial years of reign by the Arabs were peaceful and this was attributed to religious pilgrim nature of Caliph Omar 1. However, people who did not practice Islam were required to pay more taxes as outlined by the Islamic law (Kafarakis 52). Further, the Islamic community came up with punitive conditions that would enable people to evade taxes. These conditions included conversion to Islam, death, or being sold as a slave. Further, the spread of Christian values and ideas were banned (Kafarakis 52). Besides these restrictions, the Christians were allowed to rule their societies and also maintain their religious courts. These freedoms enabled the non-Muslim people to teach their children about their religion, and also gave them the right to select their spiritual leaders (Kafarakis 52). With time, the attitude towards the Christian community deteriorated, with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre being the largest icon representing Christianity in Jerusalem (Kafarakis 56).
In conclusion, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks some of the major events that led to the full adoption of Christianity in Rome. Specifically, the church was built in the same location that the crucifixion of Jesus took place. The church is considered as a commemoration of the death, crucifixion, and rising of Jesus Christ.
Kafarakis, Kosta. “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: The History of Christianity in Jerusalem and the Holy City’s Most Important Church.” Createspace /Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.
Powers, Tom. “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.” Springer, 2004.
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