The History of the Lintels of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The church of the Holy Sepulchre as we see it today was restored and expanded by the Crusaders in 1099 after the Byzantine basilica was destructed by the Persians in the seventh century. As part of the expansion, a new entrance to the church, made of two doors, was built on the southern end. During the re-inauguration of the church as part of the Jubilee celebrations in 1149, the new double doors were crowned with two lintels (watch a 3D illustration of the history of the church of the holy sepulchre)

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Jerusalem Tours Christian
Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Jerusalem Tours Christian

If we look closely at old pictures and videos we can see those lintels mounted above the doors.

In the 1930s, in the wake of a fire, the two lintels were removed to the Rockefeller Museum and have remain there to the present day in order to protect them. As of today, these two lintels are about 865 years old.

When we look today at the entrance of the church we see only the hooks that used to hold the lintels. One lintel above each door.

The Two Lintels of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Now let’s have a closer look at the two lintels:

The 2 Lintels above the 2 doors (right one is currently blocked)  to the church of the holy sepulchre
The 2 Lintels above the 2 doors (right one is currently blocked) to the church of the holy sepulchre

The western lintel depicting events from the life of Jesus surmounted the left door leading to the Holy Sepulchre. The scenes, from left to right, depict the raising of Lazarus; the imploring of Christ by Mary and Martha; Christ giving instruction for the Last Supper; the entry into Jerusalem; and the Last Supper. However, since this sequence does not follow the sequence of events in the New Testament, it has been proposed that the panel actually should be read from the center outward. The large central panel, which is partly damaged, depicts the Expulsing of the Merchants and the Cleaning of the Temple, apparently alluding to the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre by the Crusaders. To the right of this panel is the entry into Jerusalem, pointing to the triumphal entry of the Crusaders into the city. This is followed on the far right by the Last Supper, which attests to Jesus’ human nature. The left side of the lintel is devoted to Jesus’ divine nature. As such, the panel to the left of the central panel, previously identified as the imploring of Christ by Mary and Martha, depicts the apparition of Christ after the resurrection, while the Raising of Lazarus, on the far left, prefigures the Resurrection of the dead.
The eastern lintel surmounted the door leading to Golgotha and the Chapel of Adam. Its decoration, which develops from the center outwards, features mythological creatures and naked human figures inside scrolls of foliage. Foliate scrolls without figures usually represent the divine nature. Here, however, the scrolls contain human figures as well as sirens, centaurs, birds of prey and hybrid creatures with the head of a goat, the body of a bird and the tail of a dragon – all of these are symbols of sin and seduction. Thus the lintel represents the forces of devil, the devil and infidels, and serves as counterpart to the western lintel with its message of triumph and salvation.

I hope you have enjoyed this Video about the 2 lintels of the church of the holy sepulchre and until we meet again let’s live the Jerusalem Experience!


1 comment

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  • What an interesting story. I was at the Church of the holy sepulchre several time with different groups but no one talked about the 2 missing lintels

    Thank you for sharing this info with me