The Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem: the history of the majestic church

Jerusalem temple .

Solomon’s greatest work was the building of the Jerusalem temple . The temple was begun in the fourth year of his reign. It was the four hundred and eightieth (the Greek translation is four hundred and fortieth) year after the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. It was erected on Mount Moriah on the site of the altar that King David had erected after the pestilence had ended. On this spot David saw an angel of the Lord striking the people.

The foundation required gigantic work. Suffice it to say that Mount Moriah was artificially raised more than seven hundred feet (about two hundred and thirty meters). Like the Tabernacle, the Jews called the temple Home (Bayt). The temple was not a gathering place for believing people: it was exclusively the dwelling place of the Lord, inaccessible to the uninitiated. A mere Israelite could not enter it. This symbolized that the kingdom of heaven was closed to Israel until Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

The temple that Solomon built was not large in size: sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high (31.5 m, 10.5 m, 15.75 m in the metric system). It was only twice the size of the tabernacle, but far exceeded it in magnificence of design. In front of the temple was a narthex: 10.5 m wide and 5 m deep.

The walls were of stone, but the inside was lined with cedar, and the floor was lined with planks of cypress. The Jerusalem temple had three parts: the vestibule, the holy place and the holy of holies. A two-leaved cypress door led to the holy place. The holy and holy of holies were separated by a wall of cedar planks with a door of olive wood. There was a veil. The walls, doors, and gates of the temple were decorated with carved images of Cherubim, palm trees, and flowers, as well as with precious stones and trimmed with gold. The floor was covered with sheets of gold (see: 3 Sam 6:21, 30). In its splendor the temple was to be a visible representation of the glory of the invisible God .

In front of the temple there were two courtyards enclosed by walls. The inner courtyard was for the priests (see 2 Chr 4:9), the other courtyard for the people. In the courtyard there was a brazen altar of burnt offerings.

An essential part of the courtyard was the brazen sea and ten movable stands with basins. To the right and left of the entrance were two copper pillars eight cubits high, which are called Boaz and Jachin in 3 Samuel and 2 Chronicles. These may have been giant lampstands topped with oil bowls.

In the holy place stood an altar on which incense was kindled, ten golden seven candlesticks, and ten tables. On one of them were the twelve loaves of offerings . The high priest could enter the holy of holies only once a year, on the day of purification. Here was the ark of the covenant. The extent of the construction work may be seen from the fact that eighty thousand Canaanites were busy at all times hewing and hewing stones in the mountains, and seventy thousand men were busy delivering them.

Holy Communion in the Holy of Holies

The censing in the Holy of Holies

The Old Testament temple was the prototype of the mysteries of the New Testament. When the prophets foretold the future glory of Christ’s church, they pointed to the vastness and splendor of Solomon’s temple. For example, the vision of the prophet Ezekiel depicts the glory of the New Testament temple under the images of the temple of Jerusalem (see: Ezekiel, ch. 41-44). Jesus Christ Himself, predicting His death and resurrection, pointed to the Jerusalem temple as an image of the temple of His body (see Jn 2:19). The Jerusalem temple in relation to Jesus Christ was a type of His incarnation. As the temple was arranged according to the blueprint of its builder, King David, so the Son of God was incarnate according to the will of God the Father. The splendor and richness of the temple symbolically point to the treasures of wisdom and reason in Jesus Christ (see Col 2:3).

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The consecration of the temple took place in the seventh month (Athanim) of the Jewish calendar. As at the consecration of the Tabernacle the cloud, a visible image of the glory of the Lord, appeared. King Solomon prayed to the Lord while facing the temple (it became a custom that wherever an Israelite was, he turned to face the temple when praying). At the consecration of the temple, Solomon prayed on a three cubits high brass pulpit placed in the middle of the courtyard, with his hands and knees raised to heaven. The prayer of the king was full of high feelings and a firm trust in God: Lord God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above and on earth below; You keep Your covenant and Your mercy for Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. <. >May Your eyes be opened to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your people Israel, to hear them always when they call upon You (3 Kings 8:23, 52).

According to the venerable Ephraim the Syrian, the many sacrifices (twenty-two thousand cattle and one hundred and twenty thousand little animals), which King Solomon brought on the day of the consecration of the temple, point to the universal sacrifice of the Savior, by which He sanctified His Holy Church.

The wisdom of Solomon became known far beyond the borders of Israel. He was visited by the Queen of Sheba. Jesus Christ points to this event: the Queen of the South shall rise up in judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, here is more than Solomon (Matt. 12:42).

Solomon’s fame was a great moral test for him, which he could not withstand . Gradually Solomon becomes the possessor of enormous riches. All of King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold, and all of the vessels in the house, which was built of Lebanon wood, were also of gold. And the saddest thing was that Solomon did what the Lord had forbidden him through Moses the prophet to do. He said in reference to the future king: “Not to multiply his wives, lest his heart be corrupted, and not to multiply silver and gold exceedingly (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon had one thousand four hundred chariots. But God was not pleased with him in the least. He had a multitude of wives and concubines who corrupted his heart. The Lord determines his punishment, the division of the kingdom.

The wrath of God against Solomon was the greater the earlier mercies of the Lord toward him, expressed in God’s double appearance to him (see: 3 Kings 3:5; 9:2-3).

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The division of the state of Israel into two kingdoms was a work of divine determination for the sins of the king. It took place after his death under his son Rehoboam, but the warning signs appeared while Solomon was still alive. Did Solomon repent? St. Philaret of Moscow writes: “Unfortunately, Solomon’s conversion is not as reliable as his delusions. However, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, and Jerome think that he preceded death with repentance. The book of Ecclesiastes seems to be a monument of this repentance” (“An Outline of Church-Biblical History”).

What the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Hides – History and Overview of the Sanctuary

Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem

The temple of the Holy Sepulchre (Church of the Resurrection) is a temple in Jerusalem, a complex of buildings erected on the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the main sanctuary, and since the 4th century the place of pilgrimage of Christians all over the world.

The last 5 standing of the Way of the Cross of Jesus to the place of execution are under the arches of the Temple of the Holy Sepulchre, which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Christian Quarter. The complex of buildings of the religious building is the headquarters of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church.

A glimpse through the ages

The site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was preserved and venerated by early Christians. During the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great, when Christianity became the state religion in Rome, the first Christian church was built on the site of Golgotha.

In 325 the mother of Constantine I, 80-year-old Helen, after the dream, which commanded her “to go from Rome to Jerusalem and to bring to light the places closed to the wicked”, began her search for the cave of the Holy Sepulcher. Helen was helped by a local resident to find the cave and find the Life-Giving Cross. At the site of the discovery laid the first temple of the Holy Sepulchre, which was solemnly consecrated September 13, 335 in the presence of Emperor Constantine and the clergy from various countries.

Holy Sepulcher Church

In the beginning of XI century the Church of the Resurrection was destroyed by order of the Egyptian caliph Al-Hakim Amrullah. It took half a century to reconstruct the shrine on the order of the Byzantine ruler Constantine Monomachus. On a share of a temple there were pogroms, fires and natural cataclysms.

Fire in 1808 changed the appearance of the temple, earthquakes in 1545 and 1927 severely damaged it. At the beginning of XX century, the building was strengthened with steel structures and decorated with new frescoes. In this form the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to this day.

Temple yard

The complex of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Resurrection is huge and majestic. The aisles associated with the moments of Christ’s crucifixion retain an atmosphere of holiness. The complex of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre includes:

  • The kapholikon – the orthodox temple within the temple.
  • Tomb of the Lord – the burial place of the Savior and the main altar.
  • Golgotha – the hill where Jesus Christ was crucified.
  • Tabernacle – the chapel in the Rotunda.
  • Stone of anointing – a consecrated copy of the slab on which was placed the removed Jesus from the cross.
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Layout of the complex

The temple is divided among the 6 denominations of the Christian Church: Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian. Each is allocated aisles and hours for prayers.

In order to avoid discord between the confessions, traditionally the keys of the main entrance have been permanently transferred since 638 to the Arab family Judy and the right to open every day with these keys to the Nusseib family. For nine centuries the privilege has been passed from father to son.

The aisles of the complex :

  1. Adam’s Chapel with its head, on which during the crucifixion the pure blood of the Savior flowed, pouring through a crevice in the rock, washing away Adam’s sin. Therefore, on Golgotha at the bottom of the crucifixion a skull is depicted.
  2. The Chapel of the Crown of Thorns with the crown placed on the head of Jesus Christ in Pretoria. Under the throne is part of the stone on which the Lord sat when they laid the crown.
  3. Rectory of the Acquisition of the Life-Giving Cross with an entrance to the temple of St. Helen. At the place of the finding of the Cross – the Greek throne . Here are preserved huge fragments of natural rock, as they were left after the earthquake at the time of the crucifixion of Christ. In memory of the event of the finding of the Cross in the Orthodox Church the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 27 is established.
  4. The section of the Separation of the Robe with icons depicting scenes of the separation of the chiton of Christ after his execution. According to the custom of the time, those who crucified Christ shared his garments by casting lots.
  5. The chancel of Mary Magdalene with a marble circle marking the place where the resurrected Christ appeared.


Interior decoration of the temple

The temple is jointly owned and operated by several denominations. It is run by Catholics:

  • Altar of Nails.
  • Church of the Apparition of the Risen Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  • North part of the 2nd tier of the Rotunda and gallery.
  • South aisle of Golgotha.
  • Throne of Magdalene.
  • Chapel of the Acquisition of the Holy Cross.
  • Franciscan monastery.


  • Temple of St. Helen.
  • Eight columns of the Rotunda and the southern part of its second tier.
  • Throne of myrrh-bearing women.
  • The side-chapel of the Three Maries.
  • Chapel of Vardan.
  • The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

The western altar of Kulukwiya belongs to the Copts.

  • Church of the Four Apostles.
  • The monastery on top of the Church of St. Helen.

The Syriacs are given the right to hold services on holidays and weekends in the Armenian side chapel of Nicodemus. The Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has overall authority over the Temple, the Qulukva, and the Catholicos. All the denominations alternate in holding services at the Holy Sepulchre.

Exterior Decoration

The splendor of the temple corresponds to its high designation. The main facade is made in Romanov style. Originally the entrance was decorated with a marble panel depicting the burial of the Savior and the Entry of Lord into Jerusalem. The entrance to the temple had two large doors. During Muslim rule the second door was closed with brickwork.

The left part of the portal is decorated with a white marble column, the Column of the Holy Fire, which was split up by lightning during the first descent of the Holy Fire in 1634 during the feast of the Great Sabbath. On that day Orthodox and Armenian Christians argued about the right to be the first to hold a service. During their bickering, a thundercloud broke out in a violent lightning, splitting the column and generating the Holy Fire.

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Golgotha – Place of Executions

Golgotha is the hill where, during the life of Christ, criminals were executed, being put to death by crucifixion, the most shameful death. In translation, Golgotha means “the frontal place.” In the cliff of Golgotha, in a small cave, the criminals who were brought to their execution were guarded. Here, sitting on a rock, Christ awaited crucifixion, so the place is called the Dungeon of Christ.

In the square before Golgotha, the crowd gathered to watch the execution of the criminal. The bodies and crosses of those being crucified were thrown into the hollow near the rock, and the Cross of the Lord was thrown into it and covered with earth and stones. At the direction of Saint Helen, they dug out and found the cave in which they buried Jesus Christ, the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, four nails and a tablet with the inscription: “INRI” (an abbreviation of Jesus Nazarene the King of the Jews).


According to legend, St. Helena discovered three crosses. In order to determine the real one, the crosses were placed one by one on the coffin of the recently deceased woman. When they touched the real one, the miracle of resurrection happened. At the site of the discovery laid the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The robber crosses are marked with black circles on the marble platform of Golgotha.


The katholikon is the Greek side chapel, the largest in area and the most beautiful part of the Church of the Resurrection, the cathedral cathedral. Its internal dimensions are 22.3 meters long and 13.7 meters wide. Above the Kafolikon rises a large dome (Rotunda), decorated with colorful mosaics. On the dome is a cross of extraordinary beauty.


The carved iconostasis is decorated with icons in gold covers. Above the center of the temple hangs a huge panikal (lampstand) with Byzantine symbols. Not far from the entrance to the Kafolikon there is the navel of the Earth (Omphalus vase).

The kapholikon from above

The Omphal vase is a stone bowl in the shape of a flower made of yellow marble and decorated with carvings. In the center of the bowl is a ball symbolizing the Earth and the center of the Christian world. For Christians, the symbolic center of the Earth is forever associated with the place of Christ’s ascension.

Access to the cup for pilgrims is prohibited, its safety is monitored by monks from local monasteries. The bowl is so light that it had to be chained to constantly not move.

The Cubiculum – “the chamber of the Lord”.

The “Cubiculum” in Greek means “opulent room”, that is, “the room of the Lord”. Here is arranged a chapel, a small church, where is the main Orthodox Tomb of the Lord.

The interior decoration of the chapel is solemn: yellow and pink marble decoration with decorations on the walls and a dome in the middle. On the perimeter (8 by 6 meters) – unquenchable candles, lamps and vases with fresh flowers. On the walls – texts of Easter chants. On the eaves – precious old icons. Inside the church are two side-altars: the side-altar of Angel and the side-altar of the Holy Sepulchre with a stone bed.

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The side-chapel of the Angel, messenger of the joyful Resurrection of Christ, keeps a fragment of the stone, taken away from the Holy Sepulchre, which is shown on a pedestal in a marble vase. The inscription in Greek at the top of the portal reads, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is risen!”

Heavenly light

The entrance to the Holy Sepulcher is low and narrow, 112cm high and 72cm wide. The cave is also small – only three people can stand in front of the tomb at a time. The top of the Tomb is covered with a marble plaque, which serves during the Liturgy as an altar, on which the Holy Gifts are prepared for the Eucharist. Because of the special reverence for the shrine, the prayers go out of the cave with their backs to the front and their faces to the Tomb.

Here, in the little cave, breathless and lifeless, lay he who gives life to all creation, who was the creator of the whole world. Here Christ triumphed over the devil, good triumphed over evil, and here Christ was resurrected.

On Good Friday, there is a Rite of Burying the Shroud. Covered with the petals of roses shroud 6 bishops are transferred from Golgotha to the stone of anointing. Stone Anointing – a place where the righteous Joseph and Nicodemus laid the lifeless body of Jesus, taken from the cross, anointed with incense and wrapped shroud. After the Litia at the Rock, the shroud is solemnly transferred and placed on the bed of three days, then carried into the altar of the Kafolikon.

The Descent of the Holy Fire

From ancient times to the present time on Holy Saturday at the Holy Sepulcher, pilgrims participate in the miraculous descent of the Holy Fire upon the Holy Sepulchre, upon the candles of the faithful and the extinguished lamps.

Descent of the Holy Fire

The Holy Fire is called the special fire, which is taken out of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during the solemn service on Holy Saturday, the eve of the Christian Paschal Resurrection.

This ceremony is a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ceremony itself takes place in the chapel, after which pilgrims light their bundles of candles from a lighted torch, which contains exactly 33 candles – the number of earthly years of Christ.

In the 16th century, on Holy Saturday, the Armenians did not allow the Orthodox patriarch to attend the ceremony of the Descent of the Fire in the Church of the Resurrection. Then, the Fire came out of the column, where the patriarch was standing. Now the faithful are kissing this cut and burned column, witness to the truth of the Orthodox faith.

Between the Kulukva and the Stone of the Anointing on the floor is a marble circle, enclosed by an iron lattice cap. Here the Mother of God stood when Christ was taken down from the Cross and wrapped in the shroud.

The Holy Sepulcher is freely accessible to any pilgrim when it is open and there is no service at the Tomb. The best days to visit are those that do not coincide with major Christian holidays.

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