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Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre: Exploring Jerusalem, the City of Three Religions

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Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre: Exploring Jerusalem, the City of Three Religions

As one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem has long been a contested site for three of the world’s major religions. For centuries, the city has been the spiritual and political heart of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, drawing people of all backgrounds to visit the sacred sites dotted throughout the city. One of the most iconic of these sites is the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre, which lies at the heart of Jerusalem, a centre of worship for countless pilgrims over the centuries.

The Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre can trace its origins back almost two thousand years, when it was constructed by the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great upon his visit to the city in 326AD. The church was built atop the site of an existing basilica, which had originally been built by the emperor Hadrian when he erected a temple to the Roman goddess Venus in 135AD. It has been since suggested that the current church has been built atop the very spot where Jesus was crucified, and is home to many holy shrines including Golgotha (the traditional site of crucifixion) and the Aedicule (the Tomb of God).

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The church was extensively damaged during the Persian invasion of 614AD, and underwent a major renovation two centuries later. During the 12th century, the Crusaders made the city of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre their political and religious centre in the Levant, and much of the city’s current infrastructure still bears the marks of their occupation. The church was heavily damaged during the Turkish siege of 1517, but was later renovated following a decree by the Ottoman sultan.

Today, the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre is divided among six religious denominations, including the Greek Orthodox, Romanian, Syrian, Armenian, Coptic, and Latin (Roman Catholic) churches. Each of these communities has a set of keys to the church, and who holds the keys to the Holy Sepulchre is a matter of considerable religious and political prestige.

Visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre is a unique experience which allows visitors to trace the history and watch the various religious traditions that have made this place their centre of worship. Upon entering the church, one is immediately struck by its incredible scale and grandeur. Inside, one can find a number of altars and shrines to various saints, many of which are relics from the Byzantine period. There is also the iconic stone of anointing, which is said to be the spot where Jesus was prepared for burial after his death.

In addition, visitors can explore numerous chapels dedicated to various saints, as well as many of the tombs within the church, including the tomb of Jesus himself. The rich history of the church can be explored further with the help of knowledgeable guides, who give insight into the secrets of the church and its many treasured sites.

The Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre is just one example of the many sacred spaces that make Jerusalem such a unique and fascinating city. With its churches, mosques, and synagogues, Jerusalem offers a wealth of experiences and insights into the spiritual world, that is rarely matched anywhere else in the world. As the City of Three Religions, it continues to draw pilgrims from all around the globe, and offers a unique insight into the histories of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.

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