Passing by the Gate of Old Town, you at once feel a peculiar spirit of narrow stone-paved streets of Jerusalem. The Old Town, which survived to nowadays, was built by Emperor Hadrian in 132. It fully preserved the layout of ancient Roman military camp.
You go along one of such streets, pass by a wicket into the blind yard – and you heart sud-denly sink. Standing on the ancient stone slabs of the yard, you understand that you approached the greatest Christian Sanctuary - the Temple of Holy Sepulcher.
It is located on Golgotha Mount where Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to salvation of all mankind. It was just on this site that the events, which become the foundation of Christian faith, such as Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection of Christ, took place.
Jerusalem began to acquire the appearance of a Christian town only during Byzantine pe-riod, when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the state religion. The first temple, erected on the site of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, was consecrated in 335. Alas, in the following centuries Jerusalem was often captured by different invaders, and the Temple of Holy Sepulcher was destroyed. And each time it was restored and extended.
The Temple didn’t gain its today appearance until 1810 (after a heavy fire), however, most parts of the temple survived from the times of crusaders (XI century). Also, there are many aisles and caves dating back to Byzantine and early Christian periods.
Just at the entrance of the Temple there is the Stone Unction. According to the legend, it was just on this slab of pink limestone the body of Christ was laid after he was took off the cross. «Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilatus to take down the body off the cross, and Nicodemus brought a mixture of aloe and myrrh» (according to St. John`s 19-39). Since then the Stone is always damp.
Golgotha is to the right of the Stone Unction. Atop the Mount there were installed three crosses, on one of which Jesus Christ met his death to show the way to «salvation and eternal life». The spot of Christ`s cross is marked by silver circle and the crosses of robbers are marked with black circles.
The primary attraction of the Temple is the Holy Sepulcher also known as Kuvuclia. It is in the center of Rotonda ‘Anastasis’ (Resurrection), the main dome of the Temple. Kuvuclia consists of two parts. The first room is the Chapel of Angel. There is the fragment of rock where, according to the legend, the Angel was seated who heralded the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The other room is the Tomb Chamber. It was just there that the body of Jesus Christ was laid when he was taken off the cross. You can enter these rooms only after you have stood in a queue for a long time. However, you must do it.
Apart from the three main sanctuaries, the Temple has many different chapels belonging to 6 confessions. In XVI century, under Sultan Suleiman, followers of Orthodox, Catholic, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Armenian confessions were forced to divide the Temple to stop quarrels. The keys of Temple were given to one Muslim Family, and since then they have opened and closed it.
Every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter, a miracle occurs in the Temple referred to as Holy Fire. Greek Orthodox Patriarch followed by the Armenian archbishop enters Kuvuklia. Greek Patriarch recites a specific prayer in the Tomb Chamber. During Turkish power patriarchs were carefully searched by soldiers to prove that they didn’t carry any means to light the fire. But Holy Fire appeared all the same. The miracle even happened when once patriarchs weren’t admitted to the Temple, and recited prayers at its closed doors. According to the legend, the lightning miraculously struck a column near the entrance and lit a candle held by the patriarch. After that no one ever forbidden Orthodox Christians to enter the Temple on Holy Saturday.
Some pilgrims go to the Temple by way of Via Dolorosa (Way of Grief). Along the street Christ carried its cross from the fortress of Antonia (palace of Herod where he was judged by Pontius Pilatus) to Golgotha. This way is marked by 9 stops, where one of the events described in the Bible took place. For example, at the 6th stop Veronica gave Christ her veil so that he could wipe his face, and there reflected his image on the veil. Now the relic is in Turin.