The Garden Tomb is not the tomb of Jesus; the pavement in the basement of the Sisters of Zion convent is not the lithostrotos referred to in John 19:13 where Pilate judged Jesus; the Roman soldiers’ game on the pavement did not amuse the guards who mocked Jesus, and the Ecce Homo arch spanning the Via Dolorosa was not yet built when Jesus the accused prisoner was presented to the crowd with the words Ecce homo, “Behold the man.” But for decades, pilgrims have journeyed to these places, yearning to be close to where Jesus spent his last days. To the Sisters of Zion convent alone 150,000–200,000 pilgrims come each year.

The 15 nuns living in the Sisters of Zion convent who reverently show visitors the archaeological remains within its walls have had to adjust to new facts. Their forthcoming brochure will not describe the convent as the site of the judgment but as the Station of the Cross closest to the Antonia Fortress. The lithostrotos is now described as a Roman plaza, but one from a century later than the crucifixion.

Sister Brigitte Martin-Chave welcomes the more historical approach to the archaeological remains at her Ecce Homo convent. “We’ve got to demystify these things,” she says. “People have attached religious meaning to the arch and to the (Roman) games, which are archaeological and not religious elements. I want to put things in their real light. People need help in visualizing the way things happened, and that’s fine. But this is not the place where they really happened.”

Sister Brigitte added an observation that is as true for the Garden Tomb and for the tomb of David on Mt. Zion and for many other less well known pilgrimage sites as it is for the Sisters of Zion convent. “Through pilgrimage, the convent acquired a sanctity that history may not have bestowed upon it. This site has been made holy by the prayers that have been offered here over the years.”