Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a church said to be built at the tomb of Jesus.

For the Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the most important church as well as the Church of the Nativity built at the place of birth of Jesus.

Jerusalem the Stone of Anointing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Stone of Anointing (or the Stone of Unction): where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus’ body for burial.

It is believed that Jesus rose again from the dead of crucifixion here called Golgotha, after his long walking the path of Via Dolorosa.

This church is located in the Christian district in the Old City. Children might guide you to the entrance, as it’s a bit hard to find, but they’ll ask for a tip.

History of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

336 CE

Roman emperor Constantine the Great built the first church here on the advice of his mother Helena.

She realized this place was Jesus’ crucifixion when she found the True Cross and the relics on her pilgrimage.

Jerusalem the Chapel of Saint Helena in theChurch of the Holy Sepulchre
The Chapel of Saint Helena in the lower level of the church. The floor is made with a large decorative mosaic.

Because she was a devout Christian, she made his son build the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem in 326.


The Sasanian Empire attacked Jerusalem. Though the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was damaged and the True Cross was stolen, The Byzantine Empire took the cross back and rebuilt the church.


Palestine became under control of Islamic Umayyad Caliphate. However, the church stayed.


Al-Hakim of the Fatimid caliph destroyed the church.

1025 to 28

The church was reconstructed after the death of Al-Hakim.


The church was damaged by an earthquake. The Christians restored it with permission of Fatimid Empire.


Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos started a large renovation of the church.


The Crusades conquered Jerusalem. The church was renovated by them into a gorgeous one; the most part of the current appearance of the church dates back to this period.

Jerusalem the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
South entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Its facade is built in the 12th century, during Crusade era.


Palestine was taken again by an Islamic force; the first sultan Saladin. He protected the Christians also with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

13th century to 16th century

Though the Mamluk Sultanate (from 1250) didn’t allow any repairment, the Ottoman Empire who took Jerusalem in 1517 accept smaller ones.

Under these Islamic forces, the church was left as is and fell into ruin.

c. 19th century

The church was heavily destroyed by fire in 1808. Some parts were damaged also by Crimean War between1853 and 1856.

Since these periods, Zionism got steadily escalating; the Jews started coming back to Palestine. Researchers from abroad investigated the church.

since the 20th century

The church was damaged again by a big earthquake in 1927. It was restored by the aid from the United Kingdom.

When Jerusalem became under control of Jordan after 1947, Jordan or Greek Orthodox repaired the church.

Visit Church of the Holy Sepulchre

There is always a long queue in front of the tomb of Jesus’ tomb; waiting time can be over 1 or 2 hours.

Jerusalem Jesus's tomb in the church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jesus Christ’s tomb. Always there is a long queue because space is very narrow.

If you wish to visit the inside of the tomb of Jesus, it’s better to come in the early morning or before closing time.

The small chapel Catholicon just in front of the tomb is believed as “the center of the world” in Greek Orthodox.

Don’t miss its dorm showing a great fresco of Jesus and his apostles.

Jerusalem Catholicon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Speaking of fresco, the one in front of Stone of The Anointing is a must see. It tells the story of the descent from the Cross until the burial.

Jerusalem a fresco of Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The story starts from the right.

Because there are lots of legends linked with Jesus in this church, we recommend studying even a bit of the story of Jesus in advance if you aren’t familiar with Christianity.


Opening hours

  • Summer (Apr to Oct) : 5:00 – 21:00
  • Winter (Nov to Mar) : 4:00 – 19:00

Administration fee

  • free
Jerusalem a map of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre ©PlanetWare
© PlanetWare