One expects the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation, but anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for numinous light, but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the ear is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires holiness, only to encounter a jealous possessiveness: the six groups of occupants – Latin Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians – watch one another suspiciously for any infringement of rights. The frailty of humanity is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human condition. The empty who come to be filled will leave desolate; those who permit the church to question them may begin to understand why hundreds of thousands thought it worthwhile to risk death or slavery in order to pray here.
Is this the place where Christ dies and was buried? Very probably, Yes. At the beginning of the C1 AD the site was a disused quarry outside the city walls. Tombs similar to those found elsewhere and dated to the C1 BC and the C1 AD had been cut into the vertical west wall left by the quarrymen. These latter had also cut around a bank of inferior cracked stone and left it jutting out from the east wall. These facts are the meagre contribution of archeology, but at least they show that the site is compatible with the topographical data supplied by the gospels. Jesus was crucified on a rock eminence reminiscent of a skull outside the city (John 19:17), and there was a grave nearby (John 19:41-2). Windblown earth and seeds watered by winter rains would have created the covering of green in the quarry that John dignifies by the term ‘garden’.
The positive argument for the authenticity of the site is the tradition of the Jerusalem community, which held liturgical celebrations at the site until AD66. Even when the area was brought within the walls in AD41-3 it was not built over. The memory of the site remained, and was probably reinforced by bitterness when Hadrian in 135 filled in the quarry to provide a level base for his Capitoline temple, which was flanked by a shrine honouring Aphrodite. The value of the Jerusalem tradition must have been scrutinized very carefully when in the early C4 the emperor Constantine decided to build a church commemorating the Resurrection. Acceptance of the tradition involved a double expense: substantial buildings had to be torn down, and a new one put in their place. And just to the south was the open space of Hadrian’s forum! The suggestion must have been made that the church built there, but the insistence of the community that the tomb was under Hadrian’s temple prevailed, and, as the eyewitness Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, tells us, ‘At once the work was carried out, and as layer after layer of the subsoil came into view, the venerable and most holy memorial of the Saviour’s resurrection, beyond all our hopes, came into view (Life of Constantine 3:28).
Constantine’s church, started in 326, was dedicated in 335.
Source: The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy- O’Connor