The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is probably the most sacred site for Christians in the world, next to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.
It is believed to be the site where Jesus was crucified and buried, thus also known as Golgotha. The site is an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century. The church was originally built by the mother of Emperor Constantine in 330 AD, who destroyed the temple built by Herodian. Herodian built his temple in 132 – 135 AD as an attempt to erase any traces of Christianity and dedicated it to the gods Jupiter and Venus. Yet most of the architecture that pilgrims see today is the work of the crusaders who in 1149 built the great basilica over the empty tomb of Jesus and the Calvary. Essentially, the Basilica is a collection of chapels clustered around the rock of Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus.
Today, the keys to the church are in the hands of a prominent Palestinian Muslim family. The opening and closing ceremonies are performed in the presence of an Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic priest. Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, Ethiopian, Syrian Orthodox and Roman Catholics all share rights to the church. This is the result of a status quo negotiated with the Ottomans 200 years ago. Frequently, the shared custody of the church causes rivalry and sometimes even fistfights among the monks guarding the different chapels and sections within the church. The different communities conduct their prayers and ceremonies at appointed hours and days so that the church is filled with a continuous cycle of prayers all year round.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a magical destination that brings pilgrims to tears and lets non-pilgrims stand in awe of the impressive design and architecture. Since it is a heavily frequented site, film crews are advised to come early in the morning to catch some of that spiritual atmosphere and peace. Film permits for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher must be authorized by three different authorities, the Armenians, the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, which each charge $100 for the permit. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the one must-see and must-film destination during your journey in the Holy Land.