Jerusalem Report: Excavations in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- By: Anonymous
BSP 6:4 (Autumn 1977) p. 117
Excavations in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The hill of Calvary, a centre of Christian devotion in Jerusalem and throughout the world, has for centuries been enclosed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built by Emperor Constantine in 326 to concentrate in a single edifice the hill of Jesus’ death and the tomb of his Resurrection. For the first time, under the guidance of Dr Christos Katsimibinis, appointed to the task by the Greek Orthodox Church, excavations have removed the accretions of ages from behind the mediaeval Greek Orthodox and Latin altars that mark the site, to reveal the bare rock of the eastern slope.
The elongated cone of rock rises abruptly to some twelve metres above general ground level; as it was outside the walls of the Herodian city, it may have been a place of public executions. Subsequently, the area had been overlaid by the buildings of a Roman forum, and a statue of Venus placed on the landmark hill. Layers of rubble from generations of destruction and rebuilding had to be cleared to reach the foot of the rock; there, two smaller caves were found which, in the light of the hill’s configuration, may have given rise — as would the hill’s sinister function — to the name Golgotha, spoken of in John’s Gospel, which is the Hebrew for ‘skull’, Latin ‘calvaria.’
In the course of excavations in an Armenian section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, an ancient quarry was cleared. Within the cavity, hewn most probably at the end of the Israelite Period (8th to
BSP 6:4 (Autumn 1977) p. 118
7th century BC), three walls were revealed that belong to the substructure of a public building of the Roman forum, probably of Hadrian’s time. Significant enough in themselves, these discoveries became the mere backdrop to a single impressive find that provokes the curiosity of expert and layman alike. Embedded in one of the walls was a smoothly-dressed stone block with a bold drawing of a pilgrim ship of the fourth century, and the inscription DOMINE IVIMUS, ‘Lord, we went.’
Only very rarely have ships featured in the graphic embellishment of churches in the Holy Land — the one clear parallel known is a sixteenth-century
BSP 6:4 (Autumn 1977) p. 119
graffito, also in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Our earlier example may be pinpointed around AD 330. In AD 325 or shortly after, the Roman building was dismantled and a Constantinian basilica took its place: one may presume that, before that time, no pilgrim ...
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