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        Following the victory of the Emperor Constantine the Great over co-emperor Licinius, Constantine established Christianity as a recognized religion of the Roman Empire and went on to send his Mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to begin a campaign of building churches on the various Holy Sites that could be located.The place of Christ’s crucifixion and burial were established by tradition to be located underneath a pagan temple erected by Emperor Hadrian sometime after 135 AD. Upon tearing down the temple and digging up what appeared to be a quarry, the bishop of Caesaria, Eusebius, attending the discovery states that upon the finding of the rock-cut tomb; “contrary to all expectation, the venerable and hollowed monument of our Saviour's resurrection was discovered.”*. It has been put forward by Martin Biddle, professor Hertford College, Oxford University, that it was possibly identifiable by graffiti left by pilgrims before being buried and built over, as many other early Christian shrines bear witness to.**

       The builders went on to carve away the mountain of rock that surrounded the tomb, leaving only the free standing rock-hewn tomb chamber. Over this was built an Aedicule (little house) which consisted of two parts: A four columned porch over the forecourt and a five columned octagonal marble structure surrounding the tomb chamber. Surrounding the Aedicule was erected an enormous circular basilica (known as Rotunda or
Anastasis (resurrection)). Also constructed at the site were a basilican church (known as the Marturion (testimony)) and an open-air inner courtyard connecting the two and containing the Rock of Golgotha, the hill upon which Christ was crucified. The basilica was dedicated on September 13th, 335. These buildings probably stood intact until 1009, despite various damage and lootings that took place during the conquests of Jerusalem over the centuries. Very little of this building remains today, though some of it can be seen within the Russian Hospice and Zelatimo’s pastry shop on Jhan es-Zeit Street.

        In 1009, for reasons never fully understood in history, the Caliph al-Hakim , Muslim ruler of Egypt and Palestine, ordered that all of the Christian churches of the Holy Land be destroyed. While the building of the Holy Sepulchre was clearly torn down, and much damage was done to the Aedicule, pilgrims visiting the site shortly after these events seem to indicate that the tomb itself was not completely destroyed and it would appear at least some of the walls and the bench upon which the Lord Jesus Christ was laid was left intact under large piles of debris.

       By 1036, the re-building of the Church, its chapels and the Aedicule and had begun by Byzantine Emperor Michael IV. This new Church, while much less grand and smaller than that
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built by Constantine was was completed in 1048

       In 1099, the Crusaders overtook Jerusalem. The construction of a much larger church was immediately begun and continued for thirty years. As part of this building, they constructed one building, which would connect the existing buildings and cover all of the chapels in the surrounding areas, as well as covering the space which had been a courtyard between the tomb and Golgotha. It is this building which stands today over the Holy Sites. In 1555 the Aedicule was rebuilt
from its foundation by Boniface of Ragusa, Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land.

        While the church faced a variety of defacements over the centuries, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre again stood intact without great damage until 1808, when a large fire greatly burned and damaged the church and edicule. Greek architect Nikolaos Komnenis led the restoration efforts, which were completed in just under two years. The main focus of these efforts were the rebuilding of the Aedicule, of which, the outside had been badly damaged by the fire. The restoration was dedicated in September of 1810. This is the Aedicule that stands over the tomb today with only minor structural supports added by the British in 1947 to help hold together the building following damage taken by a 1927 earthquake.

        In 1868 The dome of the Rotunda of the Anastasis was
completely rebuilt and in 1997, work was completed on the
inside of the dome.
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** Martin Biddle, The Tomb of Christ (Sutton Publishing, 1999) p. 66
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