You'll notice to the right of this structure is some Arabic script. This room used to be used as a mosque but was recently returned to the control of the Catholic Church. Why? Well, Mark 14:13-14 should give you an idea.
And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the householder, 'The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?'
What's interesting is how they know this was the location, and that is a combination of a few historical and archeological facts. First, this location is close to the traditional tomb of David, a site that any observant Jew would visit on a trip to Jerusalem. You'd think a descendant of David would be even more likely to do so. Second, Jesus instructs his disciples to look for a man carrying water, a task typically performed by women. The only place men would be carrying water is a place where there were no women. In this case, the location was used by the Essenes, a sect that was largely celibate and male. So scripture gives us a hint as to the location, and Jewish tradition and history supply the rest of the information (no doubt aided by Christian tradition as well).
The site was turned into a mosque following the capture of the city by the Muslims. In 2000, when Pope John Paul II, the State of Israel returned it to the control of the Church.
This picture was taken in the Greek Orthodox chapel on the location of the crucifixion. The Catholic Church controls an altar just to the right on the location commonly considered the location where Jesus was nailed to the cross.
Here is a photo of the base of the altar. You can see the rock of Golgotha behind the glass and a pilgram kneeling to touch the rock through an opening.
This structure is the edicule of the tomb of Christ, built during the time of the crusades. This is the location that my tour guide indicated was purely symbolic. See my previous post concerning the reliability of his claim. However, just around the corner in the Armenian-controlled section was a room that had what definitely looked like a tomb.
While all of the basilica was interesting, the one place that truly moved me was the site of the crucifixion. I've heard an archaeologist on some Heresy Channel show claim that the rock is simply too small for three people to have been crucified there. However, her perspective seems to ignore several facts:
- 1980 years of natural wear can dramatically change the face of a hillside.
- A pagan temple was built on the same location, then removed.
- The site changed hands numerous times and was likely further effaced during the process.
The tradition, on the other hand, goes back earlier than the time of St. Helena (4th century). The distrust of tradition seems to be at the heart of the objections.
One last point that provides an interesting commentary on the differences between the Eastern and Western churches—while the crusaders and the Latin Church refer to the location as the CHurch of the Holy Sepulchre, the Eastern Church refers to it as the Church of the Anastasis (or Resurrection).