Holy Sepulchre Stone Quarry

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The places today we know as the Calvary and Holy Sepulchre were originally part of a quarry for building stones, still visible at least at three points.


This cavity underneath the Saint Vartan's Chapel is the lowest accessible point (locate) below the modern Church of Holy Sepulchre. There are two cavities here in this area, which is accessible via a narrow staircase from within the Saint Vartan's Chapel. This area was excavated in the early years of 1970s.

Chapel of Saint Vartan

circa 1150 CE

The main altar of the Armenian Chapel of Saint Vartan (left) and the framed DOMINE IVIMUS ship inscription to the right, located within the stone quarry underneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The quarry and chapel were excavated in 1970-71 under the direction of Archimandrite (now Bishop) Guregh Kapikian of the Armenian Orthodox Church. The parts of the walls to the rear and behind the Pilgrim Ship drawing belong to the basilica built by Constantinian.

First Century Stone Quarry

circa 1150 CE

The eastern end (locate) of the First Temple period limestone quarry, the wall to the right belongs to the Constantinian basilica (illustration). This was originally a rock quarry that was abandoned and used for cutting tombs in the days of the New Testament.

circa 1150 CE

The stone quarry is only partially accessible from within the Church of Sepulchre, portions of the First Temple period quarry (illustration) can also be accessed from the Egyptian Coptic Church. In 30 CE, this was the perfect place to cut new graves because of the bedrock left exposed around the quarry, because it had only recently become available so still had lots of available space, and because it was close to the city.

Saint Helena Cistern

circa 1150 CE

The cistern of Saint Helena is part of the stone quarry that is accessible from inside the Coptic Orthodox Church of Queent Helena. The stone quarry has been transformed in to a modern cistern. This part of the quarry may also date back to the first century BCE, shows at least three different layers of plaster, which are a trace of the interruption of the carvings.

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