Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus



Jerusalem, 10 September 2016
Maximilian Mages

On Saturday the 10th of September the new students, just arrived at Jerusalem, had their first Topographical Visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, or also known among the Greeks as the Anastasis (Resurrection), together with Dr. Leopold Vonck, Chief Museum Director of the Missionaries of Africa and STS Professor.

Before we started our trip, we had a little class, where Dr. Vonck gave us some very important information about the historical facts all around Golgotha and the Holy Tomb of Christ and also about the development of the Church as well as the worship through the centuries:

In the beginning there was a quarry and when the quarry was not used any more, the people of Jerusalem used it for burials. On the 14th of Nisan in the year 30 A.D. the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate condemned a man named Jesus to death through crucifixion on a rock called Golgotha. There were many people watching him until he died on the cross. Josef of Arimatheaand Nicodemus buried his body in a new cemetery, which was located near Golgotha. Three days later the tomb was empty and some women proclaimed that Jesus is resurrected from the dead(Luke 23:50 – 24:12). The disciples must have known the place and may have showed the empty tomb to others. Amount a hundred years later the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a pagan temple on this place, which was dedicated to Aphrodite. After the Constantinian Shift and through the intervention of St. Helena, the Emperor’s mother, the pagan temple was removed and a huge basilica was built in 335 A.D. After various destructions and reconstructions in the next thousand years the crusaders conquered Jerusalem and started the last major alterations on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as we can see it today. 

After this short introduction we started our trip to the Old City. Dr. Vonck first led us to the Cardo Maximus the ancient main street of Jerusalem, which leads from the North to the southern Damascus Gate. Once the entrance of Constantine´s basilica was there, as we can see on the Mosaic Map of Madaba. From there we climbed up to the roof of St. Helena´s Chapel, where we could see some traces from the Middle Ages. Through two Ethiopian Chapels we reached the so called Parvis, the atrium in front of the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher. Just inside we could see all the things, which Dr. Vonck had taught us before. On the right we climbed up a few steps to Calvary, the place, where Jesus was crucified. From there we went on, past the Stone of Unction to the Holy Tomb, which is surrounded by a huge rotunda and covered with a big dome. Because of the restoration, we cannot actually see very much. We went on to the Catholicon and further down to the Chapel of St. Helena. Far lower down we reached the place, where Helena found the true cross. The deeper we came, the more we immersed into the history of Golgotha and also into the source of our faith, because hic=here every Christology, Ecclesiology as well as every Dogma began. Under the rock of Golgotha we could see the traces of the old quarry, and we could also see, that the rock of Golgotha is not of good quality, so that it had been left in the middle of the quarry as a hill. The most holy place, the Tomb of Jesus is surrounded by a building called Aediculum (little house/temple). Pilgrims from all over the world came and still come today to this holy place in remembrance of the crucifixion, the burial and resurrection of Jesus, at least since the 3rd century. The traditions suggest that it is really the original place, where our salvation took place.

When you enter the Holy Tomb you will read “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”(cf. Luke 24:5b-6) May we find the risen Lord through our studies and in our community during this year. Many Thanks to Dr. Pol Vonck for making time for us and for his incomparable manner of teaching.

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