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Daily Destination: Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem


This weekend, many Christian religions will be celebrating the Feast of the Cross. Although the feast is celebrated all over the world, it marks an occasion that happened in one special place: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The story goes that Saint Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, found the True Cross while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in AD 326. Constantine ordered a church built around the site, and the building was dedicated on Sept. 13, 335. The next day, the relic was brought outside as believers gathered to pray and venerate it.

Various churches celebrate these events with fasting, praying and ceremonies ranging from quiet liturgies to singing, dancing and bonfires. Many of the events happen this weekend, but others come later in the month or even at other times of year, depending on the religion in question.

Certain groups have long thought of the church as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, which has made it a major destination for religious pilgrims. Various parts of the stone edifice have been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries.

Since an 1852 agreement took effect, it's been jointly owned by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, all of whom have to agree to even the smallest of changes to the building.

This has resulted in occasional squabbles symbolized by one "immovable ladder": Since the groups couldn't agree on what to do with it, it has never been moved since it was leaned against a wall more than 150 years ago. (Look closely and you may see it under a window in the photo above.)


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