Located just outside Jerusalem’s city walls, near the Damascus Gate, you’ll find the Garden Tomb. Considered by many to be site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, the location is in some ways a “rival site” to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Despite the historical uncertainty, many agree the Garden Tomb serves as a visual reminder of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for Christians around the world.
The tomb’s actual date of discovery is largely speculative. The popular view is that it was discovered in 1867 and was soon identified as the burial place of Jesus, mainly because it contains a first-century burial site. Nearby is a craggy escarpment that resembles a skull, commonly identified as Golgotha, or the “Hill of the Skull”, where Jesus was crucified.
What cannot be disputed, however, is that this site is a place of Christian significance. The tomb itself contains two side-by-side chambers. On the wall is a carved cross, likely added during the Byzantine period. The door and stone block outer wall of the tomb’s façade are relatively modern additions after the tomb was damaged by an earthquake.
The garden is uniquely designed for quiet reflection and prayer. The high walls surrounding the area help to muffle city noise. Most visitors find the colorful flowers and tall trees, along with the stone walls and paths, create a pleasant atmosphere, perfect for contemplation. Rows of benches are strategically placed opposite the tomb to encourage group prayer or reading. Visiting groups often sing Psalms in various languages in the garden.
Maintained by the UK-based Garden Tomb Association, the site is open to the public Monday through Saturday between 8:30 am and 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm and 5:30 pm. Small groups are encouraged, because space inside the tomb is somewhat limited. Tours in English are available but must be booked in advance.
In addition to the tomb, visitors are encouraged to see the ancient water cistern and the wine press, both of which demonstrate that the area was in use during the period that Jesus lived.