On our first free day after the Turkey trip, we went inside of Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the first time. A few blog posts back, I talked a little about it. Like I said before, it’s one of the most famous churches in Christianity. Many varieties of Christians think of it as the holiest site in the world because they believe it was built on the site of Christ’s tomb. I think about six different churches own parts of the church.
It’s different than other famous churches I’ve been to (in Europe) because it’s in the middle of the city and closely surrounded by other buildings. There’s no big plaza in front of it where you can take pictures like you could at Notre Dame or something.
Here’s a view of the outside.
That’s pretty much the best view you can get. And a picture in front of the giant doors:
The inside is very different from other churches too. There’s no big open space. You turn a corner and you’re in a different small chapel, owned by a different church than the chapel you were in a minute ago. We weren’t always sure which parts were owned by which churches. I know there’s a lot of history in there that we didn’t catch onto just by walking around.
One of the small chapels:
Something we did catch on to was where the supposed tomb of Jesus was in the middle.
You wait in line and go inside a tiny room (about 3 people fit inside) where you can barely stand up. There’s a tomb that fills up the whole room. An Orthodox priest (that may or may not look exactly like Rasputin) tells you how much time you have in there. Most people kneel down and kiss the tomb. I saw some people crying. It’s obviously a very big deal to a lot of people to get to visit there.
What I’ve noticed about being in the Holy Land is that there is a site (or two or three) for every biblical event that claims to be the exact location where it happened. For example, in Jericho there was a sign that pointed out the exact tree that Zaccaeus climbed to get a glimpse of Jesus. Obviously, it’s a little hard to know where exactly something happened 2,000 years ago. I’m just a bit cynical about pretty much all of these claims.
For people whose churches were actually involved in choosing these locations, I think it’s a lot more special. However, even if none of these sites are the correct locations, you know everything at least happened close by, in this city. I still think it’s special to be in the same place where people have come to worship Jesus for over a thousand years, even if I don’t think it’s the real, exact location of the tomb.
Anyways, the church is a huge place, even though there isn’t one main open space. There are multiple domes.