Chapel of Adam
The Chapel of Adam is one of 30-plus chapels within the 4th-century Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. The chapel marks the site where Adam, the first man is believed to be buried. The Chapel or Cave of Adam is one of the oldest chapels in the vast Sepulcher Church and is located directly beneath Calvary (Golgotha), the site of Christ's crucifixion. It is a small, sparsely decorated chapel with plain ancient stone walls, but the space is packed with history and tradition. Several traditions connect the Chapel of Adam with Calvary above.
The name Calvary or Golgotha means “Place of the Skull” which could refer to the shape of the hill, the execution site or Adam’s skull buried below. This location inspired the liturgical image of a skull at the foot of Christ’s cross. The skull at the foot of Christ's cross reminds us that man's redemption was brought by Christ's death and resurrection. Jewish tradition also holds that Adam's skull was buried here. According to Exodus 14:18, Noah passed the skull to his son, Shem and then to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Jerusalem who buried Adam's remains at the foot of Golgotha. The tomb of Melchizedek once lay in the cave but was destroyed by fire in 1808. The site is sometimes called the Chapel of Melchizedek.
Hill of Golgotha Above and The Cave of Adam Below
Today the Cave of Adam and the Hill of Golgotha are within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and no longer resemble a cave or a hill. Since the 4th century, chapels have marked these sacred locations. A fission in the rock of Golgotha runs vertically directly down to the Chapel of Adam below. Tradition holds that when Christ was crucified at Calvary there was an earthquake (Matthew 27:51) that split the Rock of Calvary. Christ's blood then trickled down the rock along the crack onto Adam’s remains buried below. The blood of the Savior redeeming Adam from original sin, as it redeems all mankind. This site connects the First Adam with the second or New Adam (Jesus).
History of the Chapel of Adam
Early Christians believed that Adam was buried near or at Calvary. The first reference to Adam’s Cave was by the 3rd-century Christian scholar, Origen (c.184-253). From 135AD to 312AD the site was covered by a pagan temple. In the 4th century Christian Emperor Constantine I preserved and restored many Biblical sites in the Holy land. He had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher constructed, encompassing the Tomb of Christ. While the huge church was under construction the rock of Golgotha was uncovered together with the cave below. St. Jerome mentions the Cave of Adam in his letters from 386AD. Over the years the church has been destroyed, rebuilt and renovated. Adam's Chapel has seen many changes which are evident in the layers of stone that form the chapel walls.
Visiting the Chapel of Adam
As you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a small staircase to your right leads up to Calvary, and alongside the stairs is the entrance to the Chapel of Adam. The chapel walls are heavy, ancient stone and a Greek Orthodox altar stands in a niche at one end of the room. Behind the altar, a section of the cracked Rock of Calvary can be seen through a glass panel. Looking at the chapel walls you can see that there are remnants of stones from different historic period, each constructed in a different style. A door leads from the Chapel of Adam into the Greek Treasury. Here you can see a number of relics including a piece of the True Cross.