Set within the Christian Quarter of the old walled city of Jerusalem – which it itself the larger World Heritage Site -- this church is considered by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. A popular stop on the pilgrimage trail since the 4th century, the church itself is now the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Commissioned between 325-6 by Emperor Constantine I, and his mother, Saint Helena, the church was built on the former site of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and war; initial excavations for this construction, according to Helena, revealed the Holy Sepulchre, or the tomb of Jesus.
During a Muslim uprising in 1009, the church was razed to the ground, an act that provoked Europe to begin the Crusades. It was eventually rebuilt via collaboration between the Muslims and Byzantines, and additions were later made by Crusaders, Franciscan monks, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic elders. Fire damaged the church’s dome and other features in 1808, and archeological excavations throughout the 1970s revealed that the church’s site had, even before the temple of Aphrodite, been a limestone quarry.
The main features of the church include a stairway that climbs to the Golgotha, or rumored site of Jesus’ crucifixion; a rotunda containing the Holy Sepulchre; and the Greek Orthodox catholicon, the church’s main altar.