We spent today in Jerusalem, beginning again at the Jaffa Gate and walking to the Holy Sepulcher for our much-anticipated visit to the Tomb of Christ. Yair got us there at the perfect time – the Catholic service had just ended and we didn’t have to wait in line more than 20 minutes (it is often many hours). The monk assigned to guard the tomb was adamant about no photos being taken, and honestly it was better to just *be there* in the grave of the Lord. The first chamber has a piece of the stone door that rolled in front of the tomb, in a pedestal. During services, an altar table is placed on top of this pedestal. The second chamber is the tomb itself – with room for 2-3 people only. There was a beautiful icon of the Panagia looking mournfully at the tomb. It was truly incredible…and I can’t put it into words. This is definitely something that needs to be seen more than once in a lifetime!
After we all went through, we moved upstairs to the Chapel where the Rock of Golgotha still stands. There is a split in the middle of the chapel – one half is Catholic and one half Orthodox. The mosaic work on the ceilings were incredible! Under the altar is a hole where you can touch the actual rock.
Next we moved around the edges of the church to the many small chapels, each depicting a different “station of the cross” and owned by different jurisdictions. Then we went downstairs to the chapel of St Helen, which is directly below Golgotha. They used to dump the crosses from crucifixions down below into a chamber, and this is where St Helen found the cross of Christ. We also saw the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, who gave his tomb to Christ.