Biblical Archaeology Review 26:6, November/December 2000

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (in Bologna, Italy)

By Robert Ousterhout

Should you want to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, don’t go to Jerusalem.1 The Jerusalem church will just confuse you. The modern pilgrim, expecting to see the sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion, Entombment and Resurrection, usually comes away from the church in Jerusalem more perplexed than reassured. Questions of authenticity mix with general bewilderment as crowds of the faithful stumble through the rabbit warren of historic rebuildings, scaffoldings and subdivisions, cluttered with relics, oversized candlesticks and overwhelmingly mediocre art. It is no wonder that in the 19th century, General Charles R. Gordon proposed an alternative site for the Tomb of Jesus, the so-called Garden Tomb, located in a tranquil spot outside the wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.2 Although the identification of this site as Jesus’ Tomb is accepted today by almost no one, the Garden Tomb’s clean and natural aspect certainly seems more appropriate to the modern viewer and, in the words of Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “conforms to the expectations of simple piety.”3

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