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From quarry to Garden (VIIIth cent. BC - 135 AD)

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"I prefer to die in Jesus Christ rather than reign over the whole world" (St. Ignatius of Antiochia)

Restoration work began in 1961 and archaeological trenches were opened in various points of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Thanks to these we can ascertain that the area around the Garden of Golgotha served as a quarry between the eight and the first century BC.

The Dome and the Belltower of the Church

Archaeological research confirming the presence of the quarry

This quarry of malaky stone was confirmed by the extensive signs of tool cuts in the rock unearthed all over the area. It extended from today's Christian Road (Haret en-Nasara) to Khan ez-Zeit over an area which later on was to find itself between the two main roads constructed by Emperor Hadrian for his Aelia Capitolina. The cutting tools signs are also visible in the area of Chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross.

The Frankish Chapel - access to Calvary

Quarry signs in the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross

Crusader Sculpture from the Holy Sepulchre

Other quarry signs found during the excavations next to the Aedicula

This large east-west quarry, which supplied building stone for the ancient city, was abandoned in the first century BC. The resulting excavated area of the quarry was transformed into a garden, becoming a well protected area outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Various tombs were dug in the high walls surrounding the Garden of Golgotha . Amongst these is the "kokhim" tomb popularly known as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Crusader Sculpture from the Holy Sepulchre

The Kokhim tomb known as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
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Archaeological evidence shows that the tomb of Jesus had been dug out in an isolated spur of the quarry. In this spur the proprietor (Joseph of Arimathea at the time of the Crucifixion) had started the preparation of a family tomb. This new tomb facing east had a low door (one had to almost kneel down to get through the passage). It was closed by a big slab. On entering the low opening one found himself in a vestibule leading into the funerary chamber. Here only one funerary bench had been hewn in the northern wall of the funerary chapel (on the right hand, as one enters the tomb). It is probable that Joseph of Arimathea had intended to finish his family tomb by digging two other funerary benches in the western and southern walls but the events of the Holy Week completely changed his plans. It is in this funerary chapel and on this funerary bench that the dead body of Our Lord was laid. And it is from this tomb and from behind this "big stone" that his victory over death was proclaimed through His Resurrection. Today the tomb is completely covered by marble slabs (see further on).

The Tomb of Our Lord

The Tomb of Our Lord
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This Garden of Golgotha remained outside the city walls of Jerusalem until the building of the third perimeter wall, which was completed by Agrippa I (41-44 AD), enclosing the Garden of Golgotha within the city walls. Those years and the following ones were years of turmoil due mainly to the arrogance and incompetence of the Roman Procurators appointed to govern the territory. The Jewish people yearned for freedom from the yoke of Rome. During this time the Mother Church of Jerusalem, having its seat on Sion, visited the site of the Garden of Golgotha and there celebrated the "Memory" of the great events of the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord.
Due to the internal turmoil in the city, just prior to the first Jewish Revolt (66 AD) the members of the Mother Church fled the city to the town of Pella of the Decapolis, situated across the river in the northern part of the Jordan Valley. The First Jewish Revolt ended in a blood bath and the destruction by the Roman Army of the magnificent Temple of Jerusalem. In its aftermath, the Judeo-Christians returned to the city to join the Gentile-Christians of the Mother Church who had remained stationed on Sion. But the situation in the city remained uncertain and very tense. The city was now guarded by the Xth Legion, which put out the fire of revolt again in 116 AD and the final outbreak of violence in 133 AD. This last outbreak is known as the Second Jewish Revolt led by Simon Bar Kokhiba. These events also led to drastic changes in the architectural layout of the city.

The stairs leading down to the Chapel of St. Helena

The stairs leading down to the Chapel of St. Helena
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The stairs leading down to the Chapel of St. Helena

The Chapel of Saint Helena
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© 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 20:31:26 by John Abela ofm
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