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What is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

According to tradition, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built around the tomb where Jesus Christ was buried.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the location in Jerusalem that is purported to be where Christ was crucified and buried. The church has a history dating back nearly 1,700 years. It is also known as the Church of the Resurrection.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by the Emperor Constantine in approximately 330 A.D. Some say the exact year was 333; others say it was 335. The church was built over the site of what had formerly been a temple of Venus but had reportedly fallen into ruin. Some may have seen it as a way for Christians to reclaim the city from heathens. Therefore, the choice for the church may not have only been for the reputed site of Christ's burial, but also to show dominance over other religions.

The arguments for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre being built over Golgotha are numerous, but many say far from conclusive. First, the church is on a hill located not far from where the city gates would have been at the time of Christ's crucifixion. Therefore, this makes it a prime location for any crucifixions. Further, a tomb found at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is dated back as far as the First Century.

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Throughout its history, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. When it was taken over by Muslims in the 11th Century, it served as a rallying cry for Christians in Europe, who began a series of crusades to retake the Holy Land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt during the crusader's occupation of Jerusalem in the 12th Century.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now run by a cooperative arrangement of several churches, including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and others, as well as some secular groups. The majority of the power lies in the hands of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands as the headquarters for the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Many Christians consider it to be one of the holiest sites in the world, if not the holiest.

Despite the fact these church and secular groups are supposed to work together, there are difficulties with the arrangement. In the common areas, for example, nothing can be changed unless all parties agree to it. In some cases, this can substantially delay needed renovations. Worship times for each individual interest are strictly regulated. Further, clashes between the groups sometimes do occur. Therefore, the cooperative arrangement remains highly volatile, at best.

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