The Treasure Room
Is This Really Wood from the Cross of Jesus?
Location – Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Map Coordinates - 31.778460, 35.229556
When permitted, this is a room that we generally allow our Octagon Tour groups to visit.
This is a very mysterious vault in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the Greek Orthodox priests keep a trove of ancient relics – mostly the body parts of saints from long ago. In one sense this room houses the physical remains of our spiritual ancestors – many of whose lives were cut short because of their belief in Christ.
The “True Cross”.
This small piece of wood is believed to be from the True Cross of Jesus Christ.
Enclosed in a frame in the center of the room you can see a wooden cross, and inside it there’s a smaller cross. When Empress Helena came to Jerusalem in 326 AD it was her intention to find the cross of Jesus. When wood was extracted from an ancient nearby cistern she knew that she had reached her goal. The small cross in this display is thought to be part of the True Cross that Helena located. According to Cyril of Jerusalem, who was alive when this wood was found, the cross of Jesus was quickly splintered up and sent to churches around the world.
This isn’t the only piece of the cross that is stored in this room. The other piece is in the case on the north wall, which I will speak of later in this chapter.
John the Baptist.
This gold box displays the skullcap of John the Baptist, who is here called the forerunner. John was executed by Herod Antipas. (You can read about this in Matthew Chapter 14 or Mark Chapter 6.) We know that after his death John’s remains were scattered throughout the world, and in this metal box is believed to be the top of his cranium.
In the case below is the right hand of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene was the first one to whom Jesus revealed Himself after He rose from the dead. Through this small hinged door you can see what is believed to be the wrist bones of her right arm.
The wristbones of Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Circled in red is the section of her wrist that is on display in the Treasure Room.
A disk with relics of Apostles and saints.
There is a plaque on the wall that identifies the relics on this disk.
In the twelve o’clock position we have a section of the finger of the Apostle Andrew. He was one of the first two Apostles chosen by Jesus (John 1:40).
In the three-o’clock position in the gold sleeve is one of the fingers of Constantine I, the Roman Emperor who legalized Christianity in 313 AD.
In this six o’clock position we see a section of the finger of the Apostle Philip. Philip is the one who said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father.” And Jesus replied,” I have been with you such a long time, and you do not know Me? (John 14:8,9)
In the very center, nested in an oval of red jewels, is a piece of what is believed to be the cross of Jesus.
Every one of these men, except Constantine, knew the sufferings of Christ. They were tortured and killed because of their belief in Jesus. But they were certainly not the last. In the history of the church over 70 million Christians have been martyred, not just because they believed that God came to earth, but because they were not afraid to share that belief with everyone in every part of the world.
The skullcap of Saint Theodosius.
In the northeast corner of this room is the skull of Saint Theodosius. There is a monastery close to Bethlehem built over the site where Saint Theodosius used to seclude himself in a cave in the late fifth century. In this grotto Theodosius would slip his arms through ropes attached to the ceiling, which forced him to stand up all night and avoid falling asleep while he was praying. It is in this same cave where it is believed the Magi slept when they were hiding from King Herod the day after they delivered their gifts to the Christ Child. (Matthew 2:22)
This is the newest relic in this room, unceremoniously stored in a clear plastic bag, is, what appears to be, the leg bone of Father Philoumenos, who was a priest at Jacob’s Well in the City of Nablus. Jacob’s Well is where Jesus met the Samaritan Woman at the Well – a story told in the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. Father Philoumenos was killed by a mentally deranged man in 1979.