Gordon's Calvary before erosion damaged "nose" of the skull

Gordon’s Calvary before erosion damaged “nose” of the “skull” (courtesy BiblePlaces.com)

The Jerusalem site many Christians believe is “the Place of the Skull” where Jesus was crucified has been forever altered.

Located behind Jerusalem’s bus station and adjacent to the Garden Tomb, the rocky escarpment with its two cavernous “eyes” has been linked to the events of Jesus’ passion since the mid-19th century.

Recent storms and erosion caused the collapse of the skull’s “nose” on Feb. 20, reported BiblePlaces.com.

The site’s resemblance to a skull inspired 19th-century explorers to consider it an alternative to the traditional site located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It had the advantage of being located outside the city walls, as the Bible describes. Later scholarship, however, determined the traditional site was also outside the city when Jesus was there.

While there were several early advocates for the rock face being the biblical site, it was the British military hero Gen. Charles Gordon, who promoted the theory, that settled the matter for many. The site is known today as Gordon’s Calvary and is an oft-visited location by Protestant pilgrims to the Holy Land.

According to the Gospel of Matthew’s account:

Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.

Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:

“They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:


The 1867 discovery of a nearby rock-cut tomb – now the site of the Garden Tomb – was hailed as the site of Jesus’ resurrection, and its location, adjacent to skull-like scarp, gave credence to those arguing it was the location of the events of Easter week.

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Todd Bolen, associate professor of biblical studies at The Master’s College in Southern California and operator of BiblePlaces, notes that the change seen in the past month suggests erosion is nothing new and the rock face likely did not have the same skull appearance 2,000 years ago.

Gordon's Calvary after erosion damaged "nose" of the "skull" on Feb. 20, 2015

Gordon’s Calvary after erosion damaged “nose” of the “skull” on Feb. 20, 2015 (courtesy Austen Dutton/BiblePlaces.com)

Of the site’s historical authenticity, the non-denominational Christian trust that operates the Garden Tomb says:

The Garden Tomb is an alternative site to the famous Holy Sepulcher for you to consider the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Garden is a beautiful place in which you will discover several things that were all here on the night Jesus died and which match the accounts in the four Gospels. We never claim to be in the right place as we could never prove that; but where Jesus died is of little importance compared with why. So here we ask you to open the Bible and see what it says about these vital Christian truths.

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