The destruction of al-Hakim

In 1009 AD, the Fatimite Khalif of Egypt al-Hakim explicitly ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Arab historian Yahia ibn Sa`id describe the events thus: "the holy deed commenced on Tuesday, the fifth day before the end of the month of Safar of the year 400 of the Egira (1009 AD in our calendar). Only those parts of difficult access were spared". They started by demolishing the tomb itself, the dome and the high parts of the buildings until the debris at their feet blocked their destruction.

For eleven years the Christians were prohibited to visit the rubbles on the site and were not allowed in to pray in these ruins. It was only some years later that the Christians could rebuild their sanctuary on the site. This was due to a peace treaty between the Byzantine emperor Argyropulos and the successor of al-Hakim in which the reconstruction of the Holy Sepulchre basilica was stipulated. Works started under emperor Constantine Monomacus.

When the imperial architects arrived in Jerusalem they concluded that it was impossible to restore the whole Constantinian structure. So they opted to keep only the Anastasis with a large apse towards the East and various small chapels in the area of the Cloister-garden and the Martyrium. These works were carried out between 1042 and 1048. In this reconstruction the eastern Atrium, the Martyrium and the Cloister-garden vanished! And with the restoration of the Anastasis and of the bishop's seat the beauty of the direct lighting from the sun was lost forever!

Notwithstanding the changes the new set-up provided also some works of splendor. Mosaics covered the walls and the dome. The Russian abbot Daniel visited Jerusalem in 1106-1107 and left this description: "The Church of the Resurrection is of a circular form having twelve monolithic columns and six pillars. Its floor is made of beautiful marble slabs.

It has six entrances and tribunes with 12 columns. Lively mosaics of the holy prophets are under the ceiling, over the tribune. The altar is surmounted by a mosaic image of Christ. In the main altar one can see the mosaic of the Exhaltation of Adam. In the apse the Ascension of Christ. The Annunciation occupies the two pillars next to the altar. The dome of the church is not closed by a stone vault but is made up of wooden beams in a truss form. In this way the Church has an opening at the top. The Holy Sepulchre stands under this open dome..."

The pilgrim Daniel saw mosaics in the Chapel of the Crucifixion on Golgotha. He visited the chapel of the "Prison of Christ", that of the "Finding of the Cross" and the chapel dedicated to Jesus' apparition to his mother to the north of the Anastasis.

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The destruction of al-Hakim