Parvis and entry
Through the narrow streets of the Souk of the Old City, teeming with vendors, religious souvenirs and intrigued pilgrims, one arrives almost unexpectedly before the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the front of a small paved square enclosed by buildings, the facade of the Crusader church appears with its two entry doors, of which only the left is open, and with its upper-level arched windows adorned with vegetable motifs.
The two Crusader-era doors were embellished with decorated lunettes: the door on the right had a mosaic portraying the Virgin Mary, while on the left door the imprint of the opus sectile made of precious marbles can still be seen. When they had completed the facade, the Crusaders joined it to a bell tower in the left corner of the square, today missing its upper level which collapsed in 1545.
On the right, an open staircase leads to a small domed structure which served as the original external access to Calvary. It was subsequently transformed into the small Chapel of the Franks, owned by the Latins and dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. At the entrance to the Parvis (entry courtyard), beside the steps leading down to the pavement, one can still see the bases of the columns that supported the Crusader arcade. The columns were removed and sent as a gift to Mecca at the behest of the Khwarezmids in 1244.
Along the east and west sides of the Parvis are the entrances to the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Ethopian chapels, while the Greek Monastery lies on the east side. The only access to the Sanctuary, an entrance door with two wooden panels, has since the time of Saladin been entrusted to two Muslim families, Judeh and Nuseibeh. Passing on the tradition from one generation to the next, each morning and evening they carry out the ritual opening and closing at the entrance of the church.
Just inside the door, on the left, there is a bench, “the divan used by Muslim doorkeepers”, where today the pilgrims and the clergy of the religious communities serving in the Basilica sit.
After the facade had been completed, in 1172 the Crusaders erected a bell tower on its left, thereby modifying the facade’s symmetry by giving it a vertical thrust that today can no longer be seen.
In fact, the artistic beauty of the tower, with its simple and solid walls 29 meters high, lay in the bells and the polygonal dome of its upper levels which collapsed in 1545, and were never replaced. The bell tower also carried the name of the firm that had built it: “Jordanis me fecit”, Jordan built me.
After Saladin’s arrival in 1187, the 18 bells that chimed the hours and announced the services were melted down and not replaced until the 19th century when the current ones were installed.
Chapel of the Franks
The stairs to the right on the outer facade lead to a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows – known as the Chapel of the Franks – which used to give access directly to Calvary, thus allowing medieval pilgrims to discharge their vows and acquire indulgences even when the church was closed, or when they lacked the money to pay the entrance fee. Directly beneath is an oratory dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt.
Passion, crucifixion and anointing
Once inside, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre opens itself to the pilgrim with its wealth of memories gathered together in the place where they actually occurred: here Jesus was crucified and won the battle against death.
On the right unfold the memories linked to the passion, death and anointing of Jesus.
Up a number of steep stairs, to the right of the entrance, is “mount” Golgotha. The rock on which the cross was raised, and which at the time of the pilgrim Egeria was still out in the open, today rises 5 meters and is visible at several points behind glass plates.
The elevated surface created by the Crusaders is divided into two naves: to the right is the Chapel of the Crucifixion, belonging to the Latins, in which the 10th and 11th Stations of the Way of the Cross are celebrated commemorating Jesus being stripped of his garments and his crucifixion, as depicted in the mosaic at the rear; to the left is the Chapel of Calvary, which belongs to the Greek Orthodox, where the faithful can kneel before the altar in order to touch the rock, through a silver disk, at the place in which the cross of martyrdom of Jesus was raised. Here is carried out the 12th Station of the Way of the Cross where the dying Jesus consigned his soul to the Father, while the 13th Station is in front of the Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The chapel beneath Calvary is dedicated to Adam, the progenitor of humanity. It is here that the Crusaders placed the remains of Godfrey de Bouillon and Baldwin, first King of Jerusalem. The Crusader tombs were destroyed by the Greek Orthodox at the time of the restoration following the 1808 fire. Ancient Jerusalem traditions are represented in a number of chapels placed along the eastern ambulatory: starting with the Chapel of Adam one comes upon the Chapel of Derision, the Chapel of the Division of the Holy Robes and the Chapel of St. Longinus, before arriving to the Prison of Christ. Entering the small room of the Prison one passes through a portal decorated with Crusader capitals depicting an unusual version of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
The Stone of the Anointing, which is located directly ahead upon entering the church and was mentioned for the first time by the pilgrim Riccoldo da Monte Croce in 1288, commemorates the anointing of the lifeless body of Jesus and is especially venerated by Orthodox pilgrims. On the wall behind the stone, the scenes depicted in the modern mosaic allow one to follow the path of Jesus being taken down from the cross, sprinkled with perfumed oils and placed in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
According to the Gospels, several women followed the events from a short distance away: thus the commemoration of the “three Marys” placed underneath the small canopy not far from the Stone of the Anointing in the direction of the Anastasis, in front of the Armenian mosaic of the crucifixion which dates from the 1970s.
Chapel of Calvary
"It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last." (Luke 23: 44-46)
Going up a steep staircase one comes to the Altar of Calvary, which rises above the rock on which Jesus’ cross was raised.
The rock is visible through glass plates on either side of the altar. Pilgrims can touch the rock through an opening in the silver disk beneath the altar, the point where the Cross stood, according to tradition.
It is here that pilgrims discharged their vows, by placing on the altar the small wooden crosses given to them in their country of origin at the beginning of their voyage.
The chapel belongs to the Greek Orthodox and is decorated with lamps and candles according to their tradition.
Chapel of the Crucifixion
"Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle." (John 19: 16-18)
The chapel to the side, which belongs to the Franciscans, commemorates the crucifixion. The silvered bronze altar was a gift of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando de’ Medici (1588).
The decorations and mosaics are 20th century restorations, apart from the mosaic on the vaulted ceiling depicting the Ascension which dates from the 12th century.
Between the two chapels is the Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows. The bust of the Virgin is a gift of Queen Maria of Portugal (1778).
A second steep staircase leads downstairs again.
Chapel of Adam
"And Jesus answered and said: Blessed art thou, Bartholomew, my beloved, because thou sawest this mystery, and now will I tell thee all things whatsoever thou askest me. For when I vanished away from the cross, then went I down into Hades that I might bring up Adam and all them that were with him, according to the supplication of Michael the archangel. "(The Apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew)
Directly beneath Calvary, the Chapel of Adam is one of the oldest in the church.
In the apse can be seen the crack in the rock caused, according to the earliest Christian tradition, by the earthquake which occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death. The crack was said to have allowed Christ’s blood to fall upon, and thereby redeem, Adam who was thought to have been buried here.
For the first Christians this was also the origin of the name Golgotha: the place of the skull. This tradition has inspired the iconography of the Cross, which places a skull and rivulets of blood at the foot of the Cross, and frequently a small cave.
Stone of the Anointing
“And in the meantime they carefully wrapped him, together with spices and myrrh, in a new linen cloth, that had never been used by anyone.” (Apocryphal Gospel of Gamiliel)
On entering the church, directly ahead is the Stone of the Anointing (or Unction), in memory of the piety of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who prepared Jesus’ body for burial.
Highly venerated by the Orthodox, it is decorated with candlesticks and lamps.
A mosaic on the inner wall depicts the scene.
Burial and resurrection
The Tomb that contained the body of Jesus and was inundated with the light of Christ’s resurrection is the heart not only of the entire church, but of all Christianity that for centuries has responded to the angel’s invitation: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay (Matt 28:5-6).”
After entering the church, to the left is the way to the Anastasis, the Constantinian Rotunda, with the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre at its center towered over by the dome that was restored and inaugurated in 1997.
The Rotunda is one of the areas of the sanctuary that has undergone the fewest changes in terms of layout since the time of Constantine: a series of three columns alternating with pillars supports a flight of arches that opens onto an upper gallery that has been divided between the Latin and Armenian communities. Cosmatesque mosaics from the 11th century were uncovered when the galleries were being restored.
The massive columns of the Rotunda, which replaced the original ones damaged by age and fire, are decorated with modern capitals sculpted in the Byzantine style of the 5th century. In Constantine’s design, the columns separated the center of the rotunda from a circular ambulatory, permitting the pilgrims to move freely about the Edicule. Over time this latter area has been transformed into a series of closed spaces reserved to the Greek, Armenian and Coptic sextons.
The only space accessible to pilgrims is the room to the rear of the Edicule known as the “Chapel Saint Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea”, occupying the western apse of the Rotunda. A low and narrow door leads from this to a shaft (or kokhim) tomb from the time of Jesus, said to be that of Joseph of Arimathea.
At the center of the Rotunda is the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. The tomb of Jesus, which was separated from the surrounding rocks by Constantine’s architects, has through the centuries been the object of destructions, reconstructions, embellishments and restorations. It is now contained in the Edicule built by the Greek Orthodox following the 1808 fire, which replaced that of the Franciscans from the 16th century.
The Edicule, with its onion-shaped cupola, consists of a vestibule or passageway, the Chapel of the Angel, that leads to the narrow burial chamber where on the right is the rock-cut marble bench on which the body of Christ was laid.
Attached to the rear of the Edicule is the Chapel of the Copts, who since 1573 have had an altar there for services inside the church. Beneath the altar, exposed to the veneration of the faithful, is a portion of the bed of rock from which the tomb of Christ’s burial was excavated.
Edicule of the Tomb
"Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it (in) clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed." (Matt 27: 59)
The Edicule of the Tomb, shared among the religious communities, once again has the layout of a tomb from the time of Jesus, formed by a passageway in which the body was anointed and wrapped in a linen cloth, and by a separate burial chamber. In the case of that of Jesus, the tomb is believed to have been of the arcosolium type, with a burial bench or shelf parallel to the wall.
In 1808 there was a devastating fire and the present Edicule was built in 1810 by the Greek Orthodox community.
The Edicule is covered by a flat roof with a small Russian-style dome at its center whose “onion” is supported by narrow columns; the side panels are decorated with inscriptions in Greek inviting peoples and nations to praise the Risen Christ.
Behind the candlesticks of the different religious communities, the facade of the Edicule appears framed by an architectural style characterized by twisted columns, carved ornaments, cornices, inscriptions, paintings and oil lamps. Since the period of the British Mandate, the Edicule has been encased in a cradle of steel girders due to concerns about its stability.
It is today in need of a complete restoration. Visits during the day are regulated by the Greek Orthodox community and pilgrims enter in turn.
The Latin community carries out Eucharistic celebrations inside the Edicule each morning between 04.30 and 07.45 (standard time).
Chapel of the Angel
"On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed." (Mark 16: 5)
On entering the Edicule one finds oneself in the vestibule known as the Chapel of the Angel, in memory of the young man clothed in white robes who the women saw sitting in the tomb the morning following the Sabbath, and from whom they heard the announcement of the Resurrection.
The small room, approximately 3.50 meters long by 4 meters wide, is decorated with white marble sculptural panels interspersed with columns and pillars. At its center is a pedestal containing a fragment of the rock that was used to seal the entrance to the Tomb, a rock that had been conserved in its entirety until the church’s destruction in 1009.
The original subterranean antechamber was destroyed at the time of Constantine, who envisaged an area in front of the burial chamber that would be free of walls and surrounded by balustrades.
The Crusader Edicule had three entry doors into the antechamber that were subsequently closed off in the 16th century. The current arrangement of the burial antechamber thus represents a relatively version of the Edicule.
Room of the Tomb
"Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him." (Mark 16: 6)
A low door made out of white marble decorated with a bas-relief of the Resurrection, partly worn away by the touch of pilgrims, leads to the small and simple room that on its right has the marble slab that covered the original rock bench on which the body of Jesus was laid.
The walls are adorned with white marble panels and red marble pilasters. Above the marble slab are several paintings and bas-reliefs framed in silver depicting the triumph of the Risen Christ coming out of the tomb.
Forty-three votive lamps, belonging to the different communities that guard the Tomb, are suspended from the open ceiling under the small dome.
Rotunda or Anastasis
"But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." (Luke 24: 1-2)
The Rotunda, known as Anastasis (Greek for “resurrection”), respects the design of the original imposing Roman-Byzantine structure, in which pillars, groups of columns and large windows alternated in a regular order.
Unfortunately, as a result of the various restorations over the centuries, the windows have lost their direct sunlight and the circular ambulatory has been divided into two levels by a mezzanine.
During the last restoration the twelve columns of the lower level were restored to their original form.
The two columns near the Altar of Mary Magdalene were, in all likelihood, two parts of a single column belonging either to the original Constantinian complex or to Hadrian’s temple.
The restoration of the dome was completed in the 1990s.
Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
"Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God." (Luke 23: 50-51)
Passing between the pillars of the Rotunda and entering the room at the western extremity, one is immediately struck by the fact that it is dark and poorly maintained.
This is the so-called chapel “of the Syrians”, a religious community that has lost various rights that it formerly enjoyed within the church. The conflict between Syrians and Armenians over the ownership of the room has led to its degradation.
A small passageway in the wall leads to the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea: according to tradition, having offered his own tomb to Jesus and not wanting to be buried in the same tomb, the representative of the Sanhedrin had him placed in this tomb. Certainly the discovery of this tomb confirms the usage of this side of Mount Gareb as a burial area.
It is here that the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan celebrates mass each Sunday with the adherents of this rite.
Appearances after the resurrection
What occurred early in the morning of the day following the Sabbath, must have taken place in that “garden” in which the tomb donated by Joseph of Arimathea for the burial of Jesus was located.
The area to the north of the Rotunda resonates with the memories of the announcement of the Resurrection.
According to the Synoptic Gospels, the women were the first witnesses to the announcement when, having gone to the Tomb to anoint the body of their Master, they discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb and an angel in dazzling garments who told them: “He is not here, He is risen”.
As John the Evangelist tells us, Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the risen Jesus who had not yet ascended to the Father, and he entrusted to her the task of announcing the Resurrection.
Passing beyond the columns of the Rotunda one enters into the area belonging to the Franciscans. The altar to the right is dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In this area, in addition to celebrating the majority of their services at the Tomb, it is customary to encounter Franciscan fathers engaged in meeting pilgrims and hearing their confessions. From here one enters the Latin Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus to his Mother. This ancient memory is not reported in the Gospels but has been handed down in this chapel, where the Column of the Flagellation is preserved.
Behind these areas is located the Franciscan Monastery where the fathers serving in the church live permanently. The north aisle of the church is formed by a series of arches, said to be “of the Virgin” because they commemorate the visits of the Virgin Mary to the Tomb. This memory is linked to the five smaller columns alongside the Crusader pillars.
The columns are the remains from Monomachus’ 11th century arcade that, like the original Constantinian design, surrounded the open area in front of the Anastasis on three sides.
Chapel of Mary Magdalene
"Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher." (John 20: 17)
This chapel belongs to the Latins and is dedicated to the encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, as transmitted to us by the Gospel of John.
Above the altar is a modern bronze statue depicting the encounter of the Magdalene with her Master, a work by the Franciscan artist Andrea Martini.
High on the opposite side is the organ that accompanies services in Latin conducted by the friars.
The pavement in black and white stone is a copy of that from the 11th century and consists of two circular sectors indicating the positions, at the time of their encounter, of Jesus, at the point encircled by rays, and Mary Magdalene, at the center of three circles.
Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus to his Mother
“Then Jesus said to Mary: ‘You have shed enough tears. He who was crucified is alive and speaks to you and consoles you, it is he whom you are seeking, it is he who is wearing the heavenly purple. He whose tomb you seek is the one who has shattered the bronze doors and liberated the prisoners from Hell.’” (Apocryphal Gospel of Gamiliel)
Known as the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament or the Chapel of the Apparition of Jesus to his Mother, it commemorates an event narrated in the apocryphal “Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle”.
The chapel has existed since the 11th century restoration of Constantine Monomachus, and was restored during the 1980s by the Franciscans. It is adorned with a modern bronze statue of the Stations of the Cross by Father Andrea Martini.
To the right of the altar is the Column of the Flagellation, a piece of the red porphyry column, venerated for centuries by the Latin faithful in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, brought to this location in 1553 by Father Custos Boniface of Ragusa.
Arches of the Virgin
"When the day dawned, while his heart was broken and sad, from the right of the entrance he penetrated into the tomb an aromatic fragrance: it seemed the spread of the perfume of the tree of life.The virgin turned and stood, near a bush of incense, saw God dressed in a beautiful dress of heavenly purple He said to her: "Woman, why are you crying and lamenting so sadly on a tomb that has no corpse?" (Apocryphal Gospel of Gamaliel)
Passing through the north aisle, elements from earlier constructions can be distinguished. From the back wall, which dates from the original Constantinian complex, Byzantine columns and pillars from the Crusader transept stand out.
On the wall itself holes can be seen, where the multi-colored marble that at one time adorned the building was attached.
Five columns distinct from the others, smaller and with a rough exterior, form the socalled Arches of the Virgin, which commemorate the visits of the Mother of the Lord to the tomb of the Son. This memory was evidently considered to be authentic by the Crusaders, as this was the only part of Constantine’s Triportico they chose to preserve.
Finding of the True Cross
From the eastern ambulatory a staircase descends to the chapel dedicated to St. Helena. The walls of the staircase are covered with small crosses carved over the centuries by Armenian pilgrims as testimony to their people’s devotion to the Cross.
In 327, Empress Helena, Constantine’s mother, came as a pilgrim to Jerusalem and wished to search for the Holy Cross. The historical account narrates the discovery of three crosses in an ancient cistern, together with nails (one of which is incorporated in the Iron Crown kept in the Cathedral of Monza, another is in the Duomo in Milan, and a third is in Rome) and the titulus – the tablet or plaque which, at the request of Pontius Pilate, gave the reason for the condemnation in three languages (a fragment of this is kept in Rome, at the Church of the Santa Croce). A miracle allowed the Cross of Christ to be identified.
The chapel has three naves, with four columns supporting the dome, and dates back to the twelfth century; it is the property of the Armenians. Historical sources and archaeological excavations confirm that the hall was already used in some manner as part of Constantine’s project.
The chapel is adorned with hanging lamps, in the Armenian style. From the Armenian Chapel of St. Helena one descends to the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross, where each year on 7 May the discovery of the Holy Cross is commemorated, with the relic of the wood of the Cross of Christ being carried in procession by the Franciscan Father Custos to the point where, according to tradition, it was found.
Chapel of St. Helena
Built by the Crusaders, today it is the Armenians who officiate at the Chapel of St. Helena. The floor mosaic depicts the principal churches of the Armenian nation.
The four columns are crowned with Byzantine capitals, two in Corinthian style and two “basket” capitals which the Crusaders took from the ancient Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The windows in the dome receive light from the raised courtyard of the Deir es-Sultan Monastery, located behind the apse of the church, with its small cells for Ethiopian monks.
From a door at the rear one enters the Chapel of St. Vartan and the Armenian Martyrs, open only upon request, where an ancient drawing of a boat was found bearing the inscription Domine Ivimus, «Lord, we went», believed to be the oldest mark of veneration left by an ancient pilgrim prior to the construction of the church.
Chapel of the Finding of the Cross
"Inventio sanctae crucis dicitur, quia tall die sancta crux inventa fuisse refertur. Nam et antea fuit inventa a Seth, filio Adam, in terrestri paradiso, sicut infra narratur, a Salomone in Libano, a regina Saba in Salomonis templo, a Judaeis in aqua piscinae, hodie ab Helena in morte Calvarie". (Jacopo da Varagine, Legenda Aurea, LXVIII)
Descending further – and this is the lowest point of the entire church – one reaches the rock-cut Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. The traditional spot of the discovery of the relics is set off by railings.
The walls preserve faint traces of 12th century frescoes, while on the ceiling tool marks can be seen on blocks from the ancient stone quarry. The plaster on the walls, made from a hydraulic material rich in ash commonly used at the time of Christ, is evidence that this underground area was at that time used as a cistern.
In front of the Edicule opens the space reserved to the Greek Orthodox, the Katholikon, occupying the center of the church where the Crusaders had built their Choir of the Canons.
The Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, formed by Greek Orthodox monks and presided over by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, has the responsibility for the account of the Greeks for taking care of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and carries out most of its own services in the Katholikon.
The dome, recently adorned with Byzantine-style mosaics depicting Christ Pantocrator surrounded by the bishops and patriarchs of Jerusalem, is supported by arches joined with pendentives to the Crusader columns on which the Evangelists are depicted; at certain times of the day rays of light enter through the windows, cutting through the atmosphere and creating suggestive effects.
At the rear of the Katholikon is the iconostasis, divided into two by a patterned series of red marble arches and columns, behind which are located the traditional Greek Orthodox icons. On either side of the iconostasis are the two Patriarchal thrones reserved for visits of the Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem. To the rear of the iconostasis, beyond a sail vault, is the Crusader apse, whose ribbed ceiling is interspersed with windows that illuminate the church.
A rose-colored marble basin containing a circular stone marked with a cross is known as the Omphalos, the Navel, the center of the world: based on various Biblical references, this was seen to be the geographical center of the world that came to coincide with the site of the divine manifestation.
This notion was already present in the Jewish religion which considers the entire city of Jerusalem to be the center of the world; for Muslims, the center of the world is marked by the rock at the center of the Dome of the Rock. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the cross of Christ is the center of the world from which the arms of the Savior extend to embrace it in its entirety.
During the excavations carried out in 1967-68 beneath the floor of the Katholikon, the Greek architect Athanasios Economopoulos discovered the apse from Constantine’s Martyrium Basilica, near the point of the current Crusader apse.
The buildings to the north of the Rotunda house the Franciscan Monastery in which the friars in charge of officiating at the Tomb live. The buildings were initially the residence of the Constantinian Patriarch, the seat of the Bishop of the Mother Church.
In the original Constantinian design, a series of rooms on several floors overlooked a courtyard, an open quadrilateral around the Anastasis which served to give light to the windows of the apse of the Rotunda. Of the imposing structure which was the Patriarch’s residence, the ground-floor walls and those of a mezzanine nearly 11 meters high have been preserved. Archaeological investigations were carried out throughout the area of the Monastery by Father Corbo. Abbot Modestus, in the 11th century, had the Chapel of St. Mary built: from the Monastery one can see the still-intact portal with three openings, constructed from reused Roman columns and Byzantine capitals, allowing external entry into the chapel. In addition, a stairway, now blocked, permitted the Bishop of Jerusalem to enter the church directly from the Christian Souk road via the Crusader-built St. Mary’s Gate.
Christian pilgrims can pass through the Monastery to reach the Hall of the Crusaders, where it is possible to celebrate Mass.
Chapel of the Crusaders
Repaired following the archaeological excavations and the restoration of the Franciscan monastery, the Chapel of the Crusaders is an imposing Constantine structure covered by a segmental vault built during the restoration carried out by Modestus.
The chapel, formed by a large hall connected to a room reduced in size by a wall separating the properties of the Franciscans from those of the Greeks, formed part of the vast residential complex of the Constantinian Patriarch. It was connected to a courtyard through a series of doors. The area, unknown until 1719, was initially used as a storeroom and, after its restoration, as a chapel for celebrating Holy Masses for groups of pilgrims. A door at the rear of the hall leads to one of the numerous cisterns carved out of the rock and used for storing rainwater.
The smaller room that today is the site of the altar was formerly part of a larger space, where archaeological excavations have uncovered remains of equipment for pressing grapes and olives connected to tanks in which the squeezed products were collected and stored. The wine and oil produced were necessary both for the liturgy within the large Constantinian complex, and for the well-being of the clergy.