The Church of Saint Saviour
Is this the Real Rollling Stone?
Location – Mount Zion
Map Coordinates - 31.772441, 35.229290
Today’s visitors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher can see a square tile that is allegedly part of the great rolling stone that covered the tomb of Jesus. The question is, what happened to the rest of this stone?
The Rolling Stone is located in the Armenian twelfth-century Church of Saint Savior on Mount Zion, just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is carefully guarded, and always closed. But what is inside has captured the imagination of believers for 2000 years. Why has this stone been hidden for centuries? Could we be looking at that rolling stone at this very moment? To answer that question, let’s go back in time.
All four of our independent Gospel writers mention a stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus, and that it was very large. They all testify that the stone was miraculously rolled away on the morning that Jesus was resurrected. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, inside the Chapel of the Angel, visitors can view a small square tile that many people believe is part of that rolling stone. But the original rolling stone that covered the tomb must have been much larger than this, and one early pilgrim spoke of it as being as large as a millstone.
Outside of the Gospels, the next mention of the stone was in 370 AD when a man named Cyril of Jerusalem claims to have seen it lying next to the tomb of Jesus. A few years later, Saint Jerome recalled that his servant, Paula, kissed the stone. Then, in 570 AD, a man known as the Piacenza Pilgrim wrote about the rolling stone which, he said, was in front of the tomb, as if it were lying on the ground.
But about a century later something changed. In 680 AD, a French monk named Arculf came to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and he noticed that there were now two stones – a small square tile in the Chapel of the Angel, as you see it today, and a much larger stone that was part of an altar, about 33 feet away - an altar that is no longer in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. According to the Armenian Apostolic Church, to either protect this larger stone from Muslim invaders, who didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, or from pilgrims wanting to chip off pieces as souvenirs, Armenian priests transported it to Mount Zion for safe keeping, to the Church of Saint Saviour. And that is why, in the year 1280 AD, the German Catholic priest Buchard records that he saw this stone in the church where we are now standing.
A Description of the Stone.
The stone is largely rectangular in shape. But then, the door of Jesus’ tomb was also rectangular. Unlike the round rolling stone illustrations that are popularly depicted today, there wasn’t any need for a round stone. Especially when you notice that the edges of this stone are round. That means that this very stone was designed to be rolled into its position. And the Bible does say that the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb was rolled. This stone appears to be the exact size and shape needed to seal the door of Jesus’ tomb.
As you can see, the edges of this largely rectangular stone are round, allowing it to be rolled into place.
Jesus’ tomb was carved into the flat wall of an abandoned quarry. Take a look at the top surface of this stone, and you will see that it is hewn completely flat, allowing it to lie flush against the outer wall of the door of Jesus’ tomb. The bottom of the stone is rough in texture, because this was the side that faced outward, and no chiseling on this side was necessary. All of the historical and forensic evidence strongly suggests that this is the actual rolling stone that covered the tomb of Jesus.
Judging by the dimensions and type of stone used, we have concluded that this stone weighed about two tons.
The Rock Underneath.
My son Dan is documenting everything about our experience with the rolling stone, including the rock underneath, shown here.
Regarding the rock underneath the rolling stone, although the sands of time have erased all documentation and memory of what this lower rock is, and why it was included in this altar, I have a theory.
When the tomb of Jesus was discovered in around 326 AD, the rolling stone was still sitting on the floor of the ancient quarry. And as we know, the rolling stone rested on the ground in the same spot where it originally fell for about 650 years.
I believe that this bottom stone is the same stone on which the rolling stone laid for over six centuries, on which it was lying when it was discovered. That makes this lower stone a relic as well, and that’s why it was placed below the great rolling stone in this altar, in the same position where it was when the angel toppled the rolling stone.
While the cross has traditionally been Christianity’s most famous symbol, salvation was not just provided for us by the single act of Jesus’ death, but also by His resurrection. Under Roman occupation, many people died on crosses, but only one of them came back to life. For this reason, the early Christians believed that the empty tomb is the truest symbol of God’s plan of salvation. And the stone that you are looking at is an enduring reminder of that moment when Jesus claimed victory over the grave.