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Unearthing the Garden of Golgotha (335 AD)

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The door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The main door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
medium sized image (112k) - large image (226k)

In 325, during the first ecumenical council of Nicea, the bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, invited Emperor Constantine to destroy the pagan temples built atop the Christian holy sites in the Holy City. The Emperor, now Pontifex Maximus of the whole Roman Empire and strong in his position decreed the demolition of the pagan temples built atop the Christian Holy Site. This is how Eusebius describe s the event:

"He judged it incumbent on him to render the blessed locality of our Saviour's resurrection an object of attraction and veneration to all. He issued immediate injunctions, therefore, for the erection in that spot of a house of prayer: and this he did, not on the mere natural impulse of his own mind, but being moved in spirit by the Saviour himself.....but calling on the divine aid, gave orders that the place should be thoroughly purified, thinking that the parts which had been most polluted by the enemy ought to receive special tokens, through his means, of the greatness of the divine favor. As soon, then, as his commands were issued, these engines of deceit were cast down from their proud eminence to the very ground, and the dwelling-places of error, with the statues and the evil spirits which they represented, were overthrown and utterly destroyed.....Nor did the emperor's zeal stop here; but he gave further orders that the materials of what was thus destroyed, both stone and timber, should be removed and thrown as far from the spot as possible; and this command also was speedily executed. The emperor, however, was not satisfied with having proceeded thus far: once more, fired with holy ardor, he directed that the ground itself should be dug up to a considerable depth, and the soil which had been polluted by the foul impurities of demon worship transported to a far distant place".(III, XXV-XXVII)

The outer room of the Tomb

The outer room of the Tomb of Jesus
within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

large image (89k) - another large image (80k)

Besides clearing the area from the pagan temples the work involved also an excavation of the land fill which Hadrian had placed in the Garden of Golgotha to level the area. Once again we let Eusebius describe the event:

"...as soon as the original surface of the ground, beneath the covering of earth, appeared, immediately and contrary to all expectation, the venerable and hallowed monument of our Saviour's resurrection was discovered. Then indeed did this most holy cave present a faithful similitude of his return to life, in that, after lying buried in darkness, it again emerged to light, and afforded to all who came to witness the sight, a clear and visible proof of the wonders of which that spot had once been the scene, a testimony to the resurrection of the Saviour clearer than any voice could give". (III,XXVIII)

  

 

© Text prepared by John Abela ofm based on articles and research by Virgilio Corbo ofm, Michele Piccirillo ofm and Eugenio Alliata ofm
Hi-Res pictures prepared by Michael Olteanu - Other pictures prepared by John Abela ofm and Michael Olteanu
B&W pictures courtesy of SBF-Jerusalem Archives - A joint project betweeen the Franciscans and Christusrex

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Created / Updated Wednesday, December 26, 2001 at 20:31:23 by John Abela ofm
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