Parvis and entry
Through the narrow streets of the Souk of the Old City, teeming with vendors, religious souvenirs and intrigued pilgrims, one arrives almost unexpectedly before the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the front of a small paved square enclosed by buildings, the facade of the Crusader church appears with its two entry doors, of which only the left is open, and with its upper-level arched windows adorned with vegetable motifs.
The two Crusader-era doors were embellished with decorated lunettes: the door on the right had a mosaic portraying the Virgin Mary, while on the left door the imprint of the opus sectile made of precious marbles can still be seen. When they had completed the facade, the Crusaders joined it to a bell tower in the left corner of the square, today missing its upper level which collapsed in 1545.
On the right, an open staircase leads to a small domed structure which served as the original external access to Calvary. It was subsequently transformed into the small Chapel of the Franks, owned by the Latins and dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. At the entrance to the Parvis (entry courtyard), beside the steps leading down to the pavement, one can still see the bases of the columns that supported the Crusader arcade. The columns were removed and sent as a gift to Mecca at the behest of the Khwarezmids in 1244.
Along the east and west sides of the Parvis are the entrances to the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Ethopian chapels, while the Greek Monastery lies on the east side. The only access to the Sanctuary, an entrance door with two wooden panels, has since the time of Saladin been entrusted to two Muslim families, Judeh and Nuseibeh. Passing on the tradition from one generation to the next, each morning and evening they carry out the ritual opening and closing at the entrance of the church.
Just inside the door, on the left, there is a bench, “the divan used by Muslim doorkeepers”, where today the pilgrims and the clergy of the religious communities serving in the Basilica sit.