In Jerusalem: Top Christian Sites

To many Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest site in Jerusalem.

church sepulchre 8 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
church sepulchre 8 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre To many Christians, this is the holiest site in Jerusalem. Its size and reputation as the place where nothing can get done because its various denominations bicker over every minute detail that involves a change to the site (including changing a light bulb), attracts the bulk of tourists as far as Christian sites in Israel goes. Claim to fame: This church is said to mark the site of Golgotha. At the entrance to the Franciscan Chapel is the tenth station where Jesus was stripped of his clothes, and at the far end is the eleventh where he was nailed to the cross. To the left in the Greek chapel is the twelfth station, the site of the Crucifixion. Between the eleventh and twelfth stations is the thirteenth where Mary received Jesus' body. Jesus' tomb on the ground floor is the fourteenth station. Icons: A painting above the stone where Jesus was lain before being buried illustrates the story of his Crucifixion; a life-size Jesus, clad in a metal loincloth marks the twelfth station; the thirteenth station is marked by a statue of Mary with a silver dagger stuck into her breast; Jesus' tomb is in a large marble structure. In the rest of the church's labyrinth of small chapels one will find many decrepit paintings with religious themes. Sense appeal: Being in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is like being on an adventure; the size of the church with all of its small chapels is exciting to explore. The different religious sects laying claim to different parts of the church adds a hint of intensity. Open: 5 am - 8 pm, free. The Garden Tomb Hidden behind the Jerusalem east bus station, the Garden Tomb is an oasis in the middle of smog and pollution. As well as being a religious site, it is a unique respite from the bustling city outside its gates. Claim to fame: The garden is believed by some Protestants to be Golgotha, the site of Jesus's crucifixion. Icons: Beautifully-manicured garden; Tomb said to be that of Joseph of Arimanthea, who placed Jesus' body in his own tomb after the crucifixion. Sense appeal: The garden leaves one with a peaceful feeling, with guides who are both soft-spoken and informative. Open: Monday-Saturday, 8 am - 12:15 pm and 2:30 - 5:15 pm, free. Church of St. John Among all the things it has going for it, this church has a prime location: it can be found in the heart of the picturesque village of Ein Kerem. Claim to fame: Ein Kerem is traditionally known as the birthplace of John the Baptist. The church marks the exact spot where he was born. Icons: Huge paintings dealing with Christian themes including the Decapitation of Saint John. Sense appeal: The church, and its picturesque surroundings, leaves one with a sense of tranquility. Open: Monday-Saturday, 8 am - 12 noon and 2:30 - 6 pm; Sun 9 -noon and 2:30 - 5 pm, free. Condemnation Chapel and Chapel of Flagellation Claim to fame: Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion in the Condemnation Chapel and was first flogged by Roman soldiers at the Chapel of Flagellation. Icons: The courtyard is plain and yet inviting. The chapels are simple and depict scenes of Jesus' life. Sense appeal: Relaxed atmosphere off the busy Via Dolorosa street. Open: 8 am - noon and 2 - 6 pm, free. The Grotto of the Apostles and Mary's Tomb The open and very plain courtyard is a stark contrast to the eerily dark and dusty cave containing Mary's Tomb below. At the bottom of the 45 steps underground, a monk sells pictures of Mary. The adjoining grotto is small and packed with tourists. Claim to fame: The grotto is said to be the site of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. The grotto adjoins Mary's Tomb, where according to tradition, the body of the mother of Jesus was brought to rest. Icons: In Mary's Tomb, the numerous religious paintings on the walls take away from the meaning of the event. In the grotto, there are three fresco scenes which depict Jesus Praying with the Twelve Disciples, The Judas Kiss and The Assumption of Mary. Sense appeal: The Tomb of Mary is dank and dusty; the grotto is cramped and overly-bright with fluorescent bulbs. Yet, there's an unexplainable attraction to this place. Open: 8:30 am - 12 noon; 2:30 pm - 5 pm, free.