For every main biblical event that we’ve encountered so far, there seems to be multiple places claiming that the actual event of significance took place there. Jesus’s tomb is no different, with at least three different places vying for the spot of his crucifixion and entombment. We’d already visited the first, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The bookies second favourite is a place called the Garden Tomb, which was first put forward as a potential site for his crucifixion in 1842.
The Garden Tomb is a quiet place only 300 metres or so outside the Old City gates of Damascus. Here we were able to stroll around, smell the flowers and have some time to think - a unique experience compared to what we’ve had so far.
One of the main reasons why this site has been put forward, is that at the far end of the gardens there is a cliff overlooking what now is a bus station, but used to be an old stone quarry. The Bible says that they took Jesus out of the city to a “place of a skull” and if you squint and use a lot of imagination you can almost see a skull in the rock face.
While we found it hard to see any resemblance to a skull, a late 19th century photo on the viewing platform does show a much better resemblance.
Heading a short way back into the Garden, took us past a couple of other interesting features. The first was what used to be one of Jerusalem’s largest water cisterns and just around the path an ancient winepress.
Off to the right is the tomb itself, which was first discovered in 1867. It was left to General Charles Gordon (of Khartoum fame) to take the final step and propose this as the tomb of Jesus in 1883.
The non-denominational Christian trust in charge of the site makes no dogmatic claims about the overall authenticity of the site and instead promotes it as a possible site for where Jesus may have been crucified and buried. Promoted as a place to reflect quietly and worship, it is a haven away from some of the madness inside the old city walls. Free to enter (although donations are readily accepted), this is definitely well worth spending an hour or so at.