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Holy Land History: Adam under Calvary

By Silvia Holgado


September 13th, 2022 - Fall Newsletter I Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center

Photo showing the Rock of Calvary in the Chapel of Adam in the Holy Sepulchre - Photo by Gary Todd


Barely decorated, the so-called "Chapel of Adam" draws little attention from pilgrims who visit the Holy Sepulchre. Located under the rock of Calvary, this small chapel is of more theological than historical interest. No marble, no silver, hardly any lights or religious images. Only the rock visible, and in it a deep vertical crack. According to tradition, it occurred during the tremor that followed the death of Jesus Christ. This crack leads us into the theological understanding of the redemption obtained in the Crucifixion: the redeeming blood of Christ reaches even Adam, that is, it encompasses the entire human race, from our first parents to us, who are at the feet of that rock that held the salvation of the world.


The Holy Sepulcher deserves a leisurely tour. It is a place that always reveals "something else" to us, because there we not only find the witness stones of unique events in history but we also delve into the mystery of our salvation.

This theological theme dates back to the fourth century, it was already known by Origen and by the ancient Fathers of the Church. For example, Epiphanius of Salamis wrote that Christ washed and cleansed our ancestor's bones with his blood. At the same time, in the iconography of the Anastasis (Resurrection of Christ) the image of the resurrection of Adam began to appear.


It was the builders of the time of Constantine who gave utility to the cavity that the rock of Calvary presented in this lower level. Later the space was expanded to be able to celebrate the cult, even if it was for a small number of people. Under the Crusaders, Adam's Chapel was expanded from the east, and the tomb of Jerusalem's early kings was built here (these tombs were dismantled during the post-fire restoration in 1808 and today, something like two stone benches remain at the entrance of the chapel).


The Holy Sepulcher deserves a leisurely tour. It is a place that always reveals "something else" to us, because there we not only find the witness stones of unique events in history but we also delve into the mystery of our salvation.



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