On this day in 1149, the 50th anniversary of the First Crusade’s conquest of Jerusalem, the new basilica of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated by bishop Patriarch Fulcherius.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Orthodox Christians, is perceived as the holiest Christian site in the world and has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century CE. Its prominence centers on the belief that the site encompasses both Golgotha, or the Hill of Calvary, where Jesus is said to have been crucified, and the Sepulchre, or tomb, where he was buried.
Due to its veneration, the Holy Sepulchre has been fiercely contested throughout the tumultuous history of Jerusalem and its upkeep and usage are today shared between Christian churches and secular entities, whilst also serving as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Emperor Constantine the Great commissioned the church in the year 326, after he converted to Christianity in 312. Early Christians in Jerusalem had used the site for liturgical celebrations at Christ’s tomb up to the year 66 CE, when the city was taken by the Romans and later built upon by Emperor Hadrian in 135 CE.
The structure was severely damaged by fire in 614 when the Persians invaded Jerusalem, a siege in which the True Cross, believed to be that upon which Jesus was crucified, was stolen. However, in 630, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius returned the cross to the church and the building was restored under the patriarch Modestus.
Once again the church was almost entirely destroyed in 1009 whilst the city was under Muslim rule, when Fatimid caliph Hakim, the 16th Ismaili Imam, ordered wrecking crews to demolish the structure, resulting in the collapse of the east and west walls. The tomb of Christ was also attacked but not entirely desecrated.
In lieu of the lack of funding at the disposal of the Christian community of Jerusalem and an inadequate renovation plan funded by Emperor Constantine Monomachos in 1048, the original atrium and basilica of the church were completely lost and the rotunda, one of the few remaining parts of the building still in tact, was made into a church.
The crusaders, who conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and took the church from the Fatimids, began their grand modifications in the Romanesque style in 1112. The Constantinian courtyard was later rebuilt into a Romanesque church, the chapels were unified and a bell tower was constructed.
Caption: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is perceived as the holiest Christian site in the world.