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The Russian Church of Alexander Nevsky

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Did Jesus Carry the Cross Over This Threshold?

Location – Directly east of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem

Map Coordinates - 31.778150, 35.230559

We generally take our Octagon Tour groups into this church, since all of it was once part of the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In 1859, the Russian government acquired this plot of land next to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and named it the Russian Orthodox Compound of Alexander Nevsky. Since the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher was three times larger than it is now, this Russian church rests on the area which was once covered by the great worship hall of the original Constantinian church called the Martyrium.


The entire Russian church was completed in 1851 AD.


Who was Alexander Nevsky?


Alexander Nevsky.

Alexander Nevsky is considered to be the most popular hero in Russian history. He was a prince and a military man who lived between 1220 and 1263 AD. In 1242 AD he expelled pagan Swedish and German invaders in what was called the “Battle of the Ice”, thus ensuring that Russia could continue practicing the Russian Orthodox faith. For this he was canonized as a saint in the Russian church.


His historical name was changed from Yaroulavitz to “Nevsky” since the place where he defeated the Swedish army was at the river Narva, which currently separates Russia from Estonia. In Russian the suffix “ski” means “of” or “from”. Hence his historical name means “Alexander of Narva”.

Today there are many Russian Orthodox churches named after Alexander Nevsky.


The Constantinian Church Pillar (upstairs).


A section of a pillar from the Martyrium, the main worship hall of the original Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

There are two parts to this compound - the church above, and the ruins below. The church above contains part of a rectangular cuboid column from the original Constantinian church that was commissioned here by Empress Helena, the mother of the first Christian Roman Emperor,

Constantine the Great.


The Casket (upstairs).


The casket in this chapel is symbolic of the tomb of Christ.


The Casket.

The Rock of Calvary (downstairs behind the threshold altar).


Behind the altar of the threshold is a large block of limestone that came from Mount Calvary.


The rock of Calvary.

The Eye of the Needle (downstairs in the gate).


There is a small opening on the left side of this gate, the kind of which Jesus referred to as the “eye of the needle”. Jesus’ words, which are quoted in all three synoptic Gospels (The Merged Gospels, story 205) are, “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”


Here I am climbing through the Eye of the Needle next to the gate.

What was the eye of the needle? When the Roman gates were locked at night, travelers were allowed to come and leave only through a narrow opening near the gate. This opening was large enough for a human, but too small for pack animals to go through. Thus, a single guard could protect this entrance.


The Archway and Stairs.


19th-century excavations at this site have uncovered a large archway and stairs. These were probably part of the pagan temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Venus, which was built by the emperor Hadrian in 135 AD.

The archway and stairs constructed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD as part of a pagan temple to the goddess Venus (Aphrodite).


The pagan temple of Venus. Notice the arch on the left with the first set of stairs, which are both still in the church of Alexander Nevsky.

Is this the threshold of the Judgment Gate?


The Russian church believes that this is the threshold of the Judgement Gate through which Jesus carried the cross.

One of the most noteworthy discoveries produced by these excavations was a stone threshold that was worn away and polished, having holes for the hinges of a gate. Without any other archeological candidates in the late 19th century, this gate was immediately assumed to be the threshold of the Judgment Gate, which was the westernmost gate from which Jesus exited the walled city of Jerusalem on His way to Calvary.


What is the meaning of the term “judgment gate”? The concept of a judgment gate comes from the Old Testament. It was usually the outermost gate of a fortified city, and it speaks of the city gate as a place where the king sat, acting like a constitutional monarch, judging the affairs of his subjects.

For example, in 2 Samuel 19:9 we read, “Then the king arose, and sat in the gate and they told all the people, saying behold, the king sits in the gate. And all the people came before the king”.


Many today still consider this to be the judgment gate (or western-most gate of the ancient city of Jerusalem), although most archeologists now consider this gate to be a structure built by Hadrian when he Romanized the city in 135 AD.

While medieval maps reveal that the actual Judgement Gate was in the back of what is now the Seventh Station of the Cross, this Seventh Station gate was not revealed to the public until around the year 2015.


This error in misidentifying the judgment gate is entirely understandable. While the Russian excavations took place in the late 1800s, dating techniques in archeology were only introduced in the 1930s. And it was only in the 1960s that Palestinian archeology started using these modern techniques for digging and classification. The 20th century has brought us entirely different interpretations, due to the science of archeological dating.

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