he ordered the Erection of a Church at Jerusalem,
in the Holy Place of our
AFTER these things, the pious emperor addressed himself to another
work truly worthy of record, in the province of Palestine. What then was this
work? 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.
the Holy Sepulchre had been covered
with Rubbishand with Idols by the Ungodly.
FOR it had been in time past the endeavor of impious men (or rather
let me say of the whole race of evil spirits through their means), to consign
to the darkness of oblivion that divine monument of immortality to which the
radiant angel had descended from heaven, and rolled away the stone for those
who still had stony hearts, and who supposed that the living One still lay
among the dead; and had declared glad tidings to the women also, and removed
their stony-hearted unbelief by the conviction that he whom they sought was
alive. This sacred cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought
to remove entirely from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus
they should be able effectually to obscure the truth. Accordingly they brought
a quantity of earth from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire
spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone,
concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their
purpose had been effectually accomplished, they prepare on this foundation a
truly dreadful sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless
idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable
oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that their
object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying the sacred
cave beneath these foul pollutions. Unhappy men! they were unable to comprehend
how impossible it was that their attempt should remain unknown to him who had
been crowned with victory over death, any more than the blazing sun, when he
rises above the earth, and holds his wonted course through the midst of heaven,
is unseen by the whole race of mankind. Indeed, his saving power, shining with
still greater brightness, and illumining, not the bodies, but the souls of men,
was already filling the world with the effulgence of its own light.
Nevertheless, these devices of impious and wicked men against the truth had
prevailed for a long time, nor had any one of the governors, or military
commanders, or even of the emperors themselves ever yet appeared, with ability
to abolish these daring impieties, save only that one who enjoyed the favor of
the King of kings. And now, acting as he did under the guidance of the divine
Spirit, he could not consent to see the sacred spot of which we have spoken,
thus buried, through the devices of the adversaries, under every kind of
impurity, and abandoned to forgetfulness and neglect; nor would he yield to the
malice of those who had contracted this guilt, 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
Excavations at the Discovery of the Holy Cross chapel
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
of the Most Holy Sepulchre.
THIS also was accomplished without delay. But as soon as the
original surface of the ground, beneath the covering of earth, appeared,
immediately, and contrary to all expectation, the venerable and hollowed
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.
he wrote concerning the Erection of a Church,
both to the Governors of the
Provinces, and to the Bishop Macarius.
IMMEDIATELY after the transactions I have recorded, the emperor sent
forth injunctions which breathed a truly pious spirit, at the same time
granting ample supplies of money, and commanding that a house of prayer worthy
of the worship of God should be erected near the Saviour's tomb on a scale of
rich and royal greatness. This object he had indeed for some time kept in view,
and had foreseen, as if by the aid of a superior intelligence, that which
should afterwards come to pass. He laid his commands, therefore, on the
governors of the Eastern provinces, that by an abundant and unsparing
expenditure they should secure the completion of the work on a scale of noble
and ample magnificence. He also despatched the following letter to the bishop
who at that time presided over the church at Jerusalem, in which he clearly
asserted the saving doctrine of the faith, writing in these terms.
Excavations at the Discovery of the Holy Cross chapel
Letter to Macarius respecting the Building
of the Church of our Saviour.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to Macarius.
"SUCH is our Saviour's grace, that no power of language seems
adequate to describe the wondrous circumstance to which I am about to refer.
For, that the monument of his most holy Passion, so long ago buried beneath the
ground, should have remained unknown for so long a series of years, until its
reappearance to his servants now set free through the removal of him who was
the common enemy of all, is a fact which truly surpasses all admiration. For if
all who are accounted wise throughout the world were to unite in their
endeavors to say somewhat worthy of this event, they would be unable to attain
their object in the smallest degree. Indeed, the nature of this miracle as far
transcends the capacity of human reason as heavenly things are superior to
human affairs. For this cause it is ever my first, and indeed my only object,
that, as the authority of the truth is evincing itself daily by fresh wonders,
so our souls may all become more zealous, with all sobriety and earnest
unanimity, for the honor of the Divine law. I desire, therefore, especially,
that you should be persuaded of that which I suppose is evident to all beside,
namely, that I have no greater care than how I may best adorn with a splendid
structure that sacred spot, which, under Divine direction, I have disencumbered
as it were of the heavy weight of foul idol worship; a spot which has been
accounted holy from the beginning in God's judgment, but which now appears
holier still, since it has brought to light a clear assurance of our Saviour's
the Building should surpass all the Churches in the World
in the Beauty of its
Walls, its Columns, and Marbles.
"IT will be well, therefore, for your sagacity to make such
arrangements and provision of all things needful for the work, that not only
the church itself as a whole may surpass all others whatsoever in beauty, but
that the details of the building may be of such a kind that the fairest
structures in any city of the empire may be excelled by this. And with respect
to the erection and decoration of the walls, this is to inform you that our
friend Dracilianus, the deputy of the Praetorian Praefects, and the governor of
the province, have received a charge from us. For our pious directions to them
are to the effect that artificers and laborers, and whatever they shall
understand from your sagacity to be needful for the advancement of the work,
shall forthwith be furnished by their care. And as to the columns and marbles,
whatever you shall judge, after actual inspection of the plan, to be especially
precious and serviceable, be diligent to send information to us in writing, in
order that whatever quantity or sort of materials we shall esteem from your
letter to be needful, may be procured from every quarter, as required, for it
is fitting that the most marvelous place in the world should be worthily
Frescoes on the walls of the Chapel of the discovery of the Holy Cross
he instructed the Governors concerning the Beautifying
of the Roof; also
concerning Workmen, and Materials.
"WITH respect to the ceiling of the church, I wish to know from you
whether in your judgment it should be panel-ceiled, or finished with any other
kind of workmanship. If the panel ceiling be adopted, it may also be ornamented
with gold. For the rest, your Holiness will give information as early as
possible to the before-mentioned magistrates how many laborers and artificers,
and what expenditure of money is required. You will also be careful to send us
a report without delay, not only respecting the marbles and columns, but the
paneled ceiling also, should this appear to you to be the most beautiful form.
God preserve you, beloved brother !"
the Church of our Saviour, the New Jerusalem
prophesied of in Scripture, was
THIS was the emperor's letter; and his directions were at once
carried into effect. Accordingly, on the very spot which witnessed the
Saviour's sufferings, a new Jerusalem was constructed, over against the one so
celebrated of old, which, since the foul stain of guilt brought on it by the
murder of the Lord, had experienced the last extremity of desolation, the
effect of Divine judgment on its impious people. It was opposite this city that
the emperor now began to rear a monument to the Saviour's victory over death,
with rich and lavish magnificence. And it may be that this was that second and
new Jerusalem spoken of in the predictions of the prophets, concerning which
such abundant testimony is given in the divinely inspired records.
First of all, then, he adorned the sacred cave itself, as the chief part of
the whole work, and the hallowed monument at which the angel radiant with light
had once declared to all that regeneration which was first manifested in the
of the Structure of the Holy Sepulchre.
THIS monument, therefore, first of all, as the chief part of the whole, the emperor's zealous magnificence beautified with rare columns, and profusely enriched with the most splendid decorations of every kind.
of the Atrium and Porticos.
THE next object of his attention was a space of ground of great extent, and
open to the pure air of heaven. This he adorned with a pavement of finely
polished stone, and enclosed it on three sides with porticos of great
of the Walls, Roof, Decoration, and Gilding
of the Body of the Church.
FOR at the side opposite to the cave, which was the eastern side,
the church itself was erected; a noble work rising to a vast height, and of
great extent both in length and breadth. The interior of this structure was
floored with marble slabs of various colors; while the external surface of the
walls, which shone with polished stones exactly fitted together, exhibited a
degree of splendor in no respect inferior to that of marble. With regard to the
roof, it was covered on the outside with lead, as a protection against the
rains of winter. But the inner part of the roof, which was finished with
sculptured panel work, extended in a series of connected compartments, like a
vast sea, over the whole church; and, being overlaid throughout with the purest
gold, caused the entire building to glitter as it were with rays of
of the Double Porticos on Either Side,
and of the Three Eastern Gates.
BESIDES this were two porticos on each side, with upper and lower
ranges of pillars, corresponding in length with the church itself; and
these also had their roofs ornamented with gold. Of these porticos, those which
were exterior to the church were supported by columns of great size, while
those within these rested on piles of stone beautifully adorned on the surface.
Three gates, placed exactly east, were intended to receive the multitudes who
entered the church.
of the Hemisphere,
the Twelve Columns, and their Bowls.
OPPOSITE these gates the crowning part of the whole was the
hemisphere, which rose to the very summit of the church. This was encircled by
twelve columns (according to the number of the apostles of our Saviour), having
their capitals embellished with silver bowls of great size, which the emperor
himself presented as a splendid offering to his God.
Frescoes in the chapel of the discovery of the Holy Cross
of the Inner Court, the Arcades and Porches.
IN the next place he enclosed the atrium which occupied the space leading
to the entrances in front of the church. This comprehended, first the court,
then the porticos on each side, and lastly the gates of the court. After these,
in the midst of the open market-place, the general entrance-gates, which were
of exquisite workmanship, afforded to passers-by on the outside a view of the
interior which could not fail to inspire astonishment.
the Number of his Offerings.
THIS temple, then, the emperor erected as a conspicuous monument of
the Saviour's resurrection, and embellished it throughout on an imperial scale
of magnificence. He further enriched it with numberless offerings of
inexpressible beauty and various materials,--gold, silver, and precious stones,
the skillful and elaborate arrangement of which, in regard to their magnitude,
number, and variety, we have not leisure at present to describe particularly.