Garden Tomb

| October 17, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Israel Tourism  CC BY 2.0 The Garden Tomb

Israel Tourism  CC BY 2.0
In the Garden

Garden Tomb

For many centuries, there was little doubt the site of the Tomb of the Christian Savior was marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But in 1883, another candidate vied for the title of Savior’s tomb: what is known today as the Garden Tomb. Sometimes called Gordon’s Calvary or Gordon’s Tomb, after the name of the man who discovered this spot, a quarter of a million visitors each year consider the idea. 

Joseph of Arimathea

Owned and administered by a U.K. charity called The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, the Garden Tomb is thought by some to be the tomb and garden of Joseph of Arimathea, who ceded his tomb to the Christian Savior. For many, then, the spot represents the possible site of the ressurection. 

Place of the Skull

Berthold Werner  CC BY 3.0 The Garden Tomb

Berthold Werner  CC BY 3.0
The Garden Tomb

During General Charles Gordon’s long-ago visit to Jerusalem, a rocky promontory caught his eye. He thought the rock resembled a skull. Then it hit him: This could be the “place of the skull” cited in the Gospel as the place of crucifixion. Studying the area further, Gordon found an old tomb that seemed to be the final piece in the puzzle. He was sure he’d found not only the hill of crucifixion but also the burial place nearby.

Erosion has hit the rock big time over the past century, but the faithful claim they can still see the bridge of the nose and the eye sockets of the “skull.” It’s important to note that the Christian Bible denotes the place of the crucifixion as taking place at the “place of the skull” but never actually says this location was set on a hill, nor does it state a reason for that name. The place may not have resembled a skull at all. In any event, the current state of erosion makes it doubtful that anyone could know how the rock looked 2,000 years ago. It is quite possible that it may not have looked anything like a skull back then.

One piece of evidence lending strength to the theory that this is the right place is the presence of a large cistern nearby. The cistern can hold 200,000 gallons of water and may be proof that a garden such as the one mentioned in the Gospel existed here in the time of the Christian Savior. One can also see signs that Christians worshiped at the spot long ago.

Lost Tomb of the Christian Savior 

Nemo  CC BY-SA 3.0 Flowers and Benches at the Garden Tomb

Nemo  CC BY-SA 3.0
Flowers and Benches at the Garden Tomb

Yet the naysayers say that the tomb at this location may be much older than 2,000 years, while the Christian Gospel specifically states that the tomb of the Savior was new at that time. In any event, thousands of Christian pilgrims stream to this spot, especially on Easter Sunday, which commemorates the resurrection.

The question remains whether this is really the spot or if the true location was identified by Queen Helena in 326 CE. That spot is where Hadrian built a temple to Aphrodite and where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands today. Most believe that Hadrian didn’t build the temple there by happenstance, but as a way of asserting pagan beliefs over Christian ones at a spot deemed most holy to Christians. According to the Church, this is the official spot of the burial and resurrection of the Christian Savior.

Visiting the Garden Tomb

Nonetheless, the Garden Tomb offers compelling evidence that makes it a contender for the site and is a not to be missed location for pilgrims. The two-acre site of the Garden Tomb is a large and peaceful spot for reflection at the bustling center of the city of Jerusalem. Not long after Gordon made his discovery, British Christians purchased the garden and formed their charitable trust. Visitors can leave a donation if they like, but there is no entry fee.

The Garden Tomb is well maintained with wheelchair access, water fountains, plenty of places to sit, and bathrooms. The Garden Tomb is located near the Old City, just outside of Damascus Gate.

Garden Tomb: Did You Know?

The Garden Tomb is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon and again from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday (closed Sundays).

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Category: Christianity

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