A rare glimpse into the hidden quarries inside the Holy Sepulchre
In ancient cities, one often finds buildings built upon lands that archeological excavations reveal to have been used for very different purposes in the ages past. Such is the case in Jerusalem, and in the Holy Sepulchre itself. In the year 33, Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose again in this now-sacred place. But in the century before that, this land had been mined for stone.
Recently, the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum organized an excursion to places that are often inaccessible to pilgrims. The fortunate participants were able to make a journey back in time as they explored the ancient quarry of building stones, still visible in at least three places.
The Cistern of St. Helena lies within a Coptic Egyptian church. This stone quarry became a water cistern, which collects water. The quarry presumably dates back to the first century BC.
The Armenian chapel of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher also provides a view of part of the ancient quarry is visible. The same type of rock is present in the whole area, therefore, it is presumably the same rock in which the sepulcher of Jesus was excavated.
Finally, the chapel of St. Vartan shows traces of centuries of pilgrimages, with graffiti decorating the walls and crosses carved into the steps.