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Jerusalem - Church of the Holy Sepulchre - The Cracks of Calvary

The Cracks of Calvary The Cracks of Calvary

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Transliterated Name Source Name
Calvary English
Calvariae Latin
Calvariae locus Latin
Golgotha Greek Γολγοθᾶ
Description and later History of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Since the report of L. H. Vincent and F. M. Abel in 1922, excavations have been carried out in the church [of the Holy Sepulchre] in 1960 to 1963, on behalf of various Christian communities (in the course of renovation work). The present Church of the Holy Sepulcher is basically the church built by the Crusaders. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, they found the eleventh-century church-an inadequate attempt made in 1042-1048 to renovate the Byzantine Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusaders rebuilt it, here and there incorporating the foundations of the previous building. The Crusader structure is essentially modeled on European churches of the twelfth century: a basilica! church with a transept and an apse containing an altar and surrounded by chapels. Excavations have ascertained that the crypt beneath the Chapel of Saint Helena, as well as the chapel itself, were also built in the Crusader period (and not earlier). However, unlike European churches, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher does not have a nave - instead of it, it incorporates the Byzantine rotunda, which was renovated in the eleventh century. The height of the rotunda dictated the height of the church (25.5 m), and the use of a pointed arch, which became increasingly common in this period. The bulk of the Crusaders' building activities took place in the so-called Holy Garden, which was the open part of the church as far back as the Byzantine period. The Crusader sculpture and molded items, some imported from Europe, the style of the capitals and the local decorative elements, such as the wall mosaics, ceiling mosaics and ornamentation of the arches, constitute the sole example in this country of this type of Crusader art. On the site of the Byzantine basilica (which was never rebuilt) the Crusaders built a monastery for the Augustinian canons who served in the church. The monastery was built around a square courtyard; some of the surrounding buildings are preserved, notably the refectory and parts of the basement of the monastery.

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Aerial Views and Plans
Aerial Views and Plans

Aerial Views

  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Google Earth
  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre on


Normal Size

  • Plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusader Period from Stern et al (1993 v. 2)


  • Plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusader Period from Stern et al (1993 v. 2)

Earthquake of the Crucifixion (26 - 36 CE)

In his catalog entry for the 33 AD Earthquake (i.e., the Jerusalem Quake), Ambraseys (2009) presents a discussion of the so-called cracks of Calvary at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Although there are legends stating that these cracks were formed during the earthquake(s) of the Crucifixion, no-one to date has been able to either date the formation of the cracks or confirm or dis-affirm a seismic origin. So, while the discussion is interesting, it is not illuminating.

Notes and Further Reading

Bibliography from Stern et al (1993 v. 2)

Vincent-Abel, Jerusalem Nouvelle, 40-300

W. Harvey, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, London 1935

E. B. Smith, The Dome: A Study in the History of Ideas (Princeton Monographs in Art and Archaeology 25), Princeton 1950, 16-29

V. Corbo, LA 12 (1962), 221-304

14 (1964), 293-338

15 (1965), 316-318

19 (1969), 65-144

38 (1988), 391-422

id., II Santo Sepolcro di Gerusalemme 1-3, Jerusalem 1981-1982

A. Ovadiah, Corpus of the Byzantine Churches in the Holy Land (op. cit.), 75-77

Supplementum 2, 134-138

M. T. Petrozzi, Dal Calvaria a! S. Sepolcro (Quaderni de La Terra Santa), Jerusalem 1972

D. Barag and J. Wilkinson, Levant 6 (1974), 179-187

C. Coiiasnon, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, London 1974

id., Atti del IX Congresso lnternazionale di Archeologia Cristiano[[ 1975, Vatican City 1978, 163-166

Y. Tsafrir (op. cit.), 587-600

M. Broshi, IJNA 6 (1977), 349

S. de Sandoli, Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre: Historical Outline (The Holy Places of Palestine), Jerusalem 1984

S. Eisenstadt, BAR 13/2 (1987), 46-49

G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 2 (1987), 187-207

G.-W. Nebe, Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 78 (1987), 153-161

J. D. Purvis, Jerusalem, The Holy City: A Bibliography (op. cit.), 320-334

G. R. Stone, Buried History 24 (1988), 84-97

Y. Boiret, MdB 61 (1989), 41-43; N. Kenaan Kedar, ibid., 37-40

M. Biddle and B. Kjolbye-Biddle, PEQ 122 (1990), 152

A. Recio Veganzones, Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land: New Discoveries (V. C. Corbo Fest.), Jerusalem 1990, 571-589

Walker(op. cit.), 235-281

D. Pringle, BAlAS IO (1990-1991), 108-110

J. M. O'Connor, Les Dossiers d'Archiologie, 165-166 (1991), 78-87

J. Patrich, Ancient Churches Revealed, Jerusalem (in prep.).

Bibliography from Stern et al (2008)

S. Gibson & J. E. Taylor, Beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem: The Archaeology and Early History of Traditional Golgotha (PEF Monographs: Series Minor 1), London 1994

ibid (Reviews) LA 44 (1994), 725–729. — BAIAS 14 (1994–1995), 64–66. — IJNA 24/1 (1995), 81–82. — PEQ 127 (1995), 173. — BAR 22/4 (1996), 16–17

M. Biddle, The Tomb of Christ: History, Structural Archaeology and Photogrammetry, Stroud, Gloucestershire 1999

ibid. (Reviews) RB 106 (1999), 441–446. — MdB 125 (2000), 59. — PEQ 134 (2002), 173–176. — JRA 15 (2002), 688–690

id. (et al.), La chiesa del Santo Sepolcro a Gerusalemme, Milano 2000

id. (et al.), The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, New York 2000

C. Joffe, Armenian Mosaics in the Holy Sepulchre Church (Calendar), 2000

J. Krüger, Die Grabeskirche zu Jerusalem: Geschichte-Gestalt-Bedeutung, Regensburg 2000

ibid. (Review) Antike Welt 32 (2000), 676–677

J. Seligman & G. Avni, ESI 111 (2000), 69*–70*

G. Avni (& J. Seligman), One Land—Many Cultures, Jerusalem 2003, 153–162

V. Clark, Holy Fire: The Battle for Christ’s Tomb, London 2005

J. Krüger, Saladin und die Kreuzfahrer (Publikationen der Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen 17

Schriftenreihe des Landesmuseums für Natur und Mensch, Oldenburg, 37

eds. A. Wieczorek et al.), Mainz am Rhein 2005, 31–36

C. Morris, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West: From the Beginning to 1600, Oxford 2005.

Wikipedia pages

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