Archeology in Israel never stops and every site has its proper history related to our faith –  especially the Old City of Jerusalem. Studying theology in such a country is incomparable and unforgettable luck. Among all the places, the Holy Sepulcher is thoroughly studied as a place of crucial importance in the history of our faith.

The site has been the object of first visit for the first-year students of STS Ratisbonne 2020-2021. Accompanied by the Principle, Father Andrzej Toczyski SDB, and Father Gregor Geiger OFM as our guide, the mentioned confreres-students visited that Holy Sepulcher on Thursday, November 26th , 2020. The Holy Sepulcher, explained the guide, is the center of the shrine Christendom. It groups six occupants: Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrians, Cops, and Ethiopians. It has the form of a circle with the Holy tomb of Jesus in the center. It is a place where Christ suffered, died, was buried and resurrected. Jesus was crucified on a rock eminence reminiscent of a skull outside the city and there was a grave nearby.

The most important argument for the authenticity of the site is the consistent and uncontested tradition of the Jerusalem community which held liturgical celebrations at the site until 66 AD. The rock is still there covered by the renewed building but a small part of its originality is visible for archeology. The main entrance has been kept untouched and the original keys are held by a Muslim. Curved rosettes in a hoodmould surmount the early twelfth century gadrooned arch. Inside the Basilica we visited the Chapel of Franks (after entrance), the Calvary (the floor above on a level with the top of the rocky outcrop on which Christ was crucified), the Chapel of Adam (area directly beneath the Greek Orthodox), the Stone of Unction (which reveals the commemorating of Jesus before burial), the tomb of Jesus (we didn’t enter inside because it was closed), the Syrian Chapel, the Chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene, the Prison of Christ, the Crusader Church, the Crypt of Saint Helena, the Chapel of the finding of the Cross, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the Chapel of Saint Vartan.

After visiting all these places, we concluded our tour with the holy procession with the Franciscan Brothers which also passed through these same places. The Blessing by the Holy Sacrament ended our visit and we then turned back home. Special thanks to the Principle of STS University.

- Célestin Ntakiyimana SDB

November 26, 2020

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