Calvary: The Commemoration of a Tragedy & A New Beginning

Calvary, also known as Gagulta or Golgotha, is a somber and harrowing location for any Christian believer. It is a quiet area outside the walls of Jerusalem, translated from Aramaic as the place of the skull, and it is the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. A monumental location, Christian pilgrims make sure to visit Golgotha during their trips to the Middle East, paying homage to their savior, and visiting several other prominent Christian sites while in the Old City as well.

Calvary in the Bible

There is much written about the location of the crucifixion, including passages in all four canonical Gospels. In some of the early writings, it is described as a small hill that appears as a skullcap (hence the title). Scripture puts the location at close by the gate to Jerusalem. To be even more specific, the Gospels describe the spot as close enough to read the inscription, Jesus of Nazareth – King of the Jews, as they entered or exited the city.

More Recent Confirmation

Even without the Biblical direction, historians believe the location of Golgotha is accurate due to a tradition handed down from 325. In this year, Helena, famous mother of Constantine I, identified the area as Golgotha, and we’ve had the tradition passed down ever since. In addition to this discovery, Helena also confirmed the location of the tomb of Jesus, not a few yards away, along with the True Cross, though this revelation is not empirically accepted. However, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was erected in this spot to commemorate the holy location.

Other Traditions of the Area

Another version of the skull-related translations refers to the skull of Adam, the first man. In several Christian sources, a story is retold of two of Adam’s descendants (Shem and Melchizedek) returning to the ark Noah built to retrieve Adam’s body. Through angelical direction, the pair found their way to Golgotha, the location where the serpent’s head was crushed after causing the fall of man at the beginning of time according to tradition. Here, Shem and Melchizedek buried Adam once more, giving further strength to the name of the location.

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