The Jerusalem church has undergone three major stages of construction over the centuries. The original 400-foot-long complex (top plan), begun by Constantine the Great in 326, incorporated the traditional sites of Jesus’ Crucifixion (Calvary, in the southeastern corner of the church courtyard) and Entombment (in the Rotunda) as well as a long basilical church. In the early 11th century, Constantine’s church was destroyed by the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim. Only fragments, including partial columns and an entryway, remain.

By 1048, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos had gained permission from the Muslim authorities to rebuild the Jerusalem church. Monomachos followed Constantine’s basic plan for the Rotunda and courtyard, but he failed to rebuild the basilical church and monumental entryway of the ancient structure. Little of the building from this stage can be seen in Jerusalem today. It is this abbreviated version of Constantine’s plan that inspired the builders of Santo Sepolcro, in Bologna (shown in the plan).

In the 12th century, the Crusaders who recaptured Jerusalem restyled the church once again—creating much of what we see today. They remodeled the Rotunda, enclosed Calvary by replacing the open courtyard with a domed transept (crossing the nave), and moved the main entrance to the south side, where it remains (see photo).