Archeologists have discovered that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the site of a Jewish cemetery dating back to the time of Jesus. The shrine at the heart of the church, known as the Edicule, encases remnants of a tomb revered since the fourth century, imagined here.
Was this Jesus’ tomb? The evidence is inconclusive but the site’s layered history holds many clues.
CA A.D. 30 – IN THE TIME OF JESUS
Jesus is crucified outside Jerusalem on a hill called Golgotha and buried in a nearby tomb. Archaeologists have found evidence of an abandoned quarry used as a Jewish cemetery.
A.D. 135 – HADRIAN’S TEMPLE
Emperor Hadrian builds a pagan temple over the tomb. Later Christian writers saw this as a bid to desecrate the site and erase the memory of Jesus, but scholars dispute that claim.
A.D. 325-335 – CONSTANTINE’S CHURCH
Emperor Constantine has the Roman temple razed, revealing an intact tomb below. Builders remove most of the rock around the tomb and construct an edicule and rotunda above it.
11TH-12TH CENTURY – CRUSADERS’ CHURCH
Byzantine Christians and crusaders rebuild and expand the church following its destruction by the region’s Muslim ruler in 1009. The tomb and Golgotha/Calvary are enclosed in one basilica.
TODAY – CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
Dedicated in 1149, the current church dates to the crusader era, though portions are older. Pilgrims and tourists from around the world visit the historic basilica each year.
During the 2016 restoration of the Edicule, technicians used ground penetrating radar and other tools to peer behind the shrine’s walls. They were stunned to discover earlier walls still intact including pieces of a tomb cut from the bedrock.
Recent study revealed parts of a tomb from Jesus’ day. The “holy rock” hallowed as the bed on which Christ’s body lay is covered by later slabs. The altar contains part of the stone said to have been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb by an angel.
Source: National Geographic