The Russian Orthodox church property catered for Russian pilgrims in the 19th century, but when they did archaeological excavations, they found ancient buildings preserved under the rubble. It is claimed that this is the site of the 1st century city wall of Jerusalem, that it is by these ancient walls that Jesus would have passed on his way to Calvary/Golgotha – the scriptures are clear that he was crucified “outside” the city, though the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is within the boundaries of the modern walled city – and that outside the Gate of Judgement which was in the wall in this vicinity and through which Jesus would have passed, his sentence would have been read out before it was carried out. Map.
The Church of St Alexander Nevsky – named after a 13th-century Russian warrior-prince – is often overlooked because its facade resembles an elegant residence or hotel rather than a church.
The tall and narrow facade, with solid security doors bearing notices in Russian, is about 70 meters from the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre courtyard.
Excavations here in 1883 – before the church was built – attracted worldwide attention, leading to the site becoming known as the “Russian Excavations”.
Particular attention focused on the discovery of a gate threshold believed by the excavators to belong to the Judgement Gate by which Jesus left the city on the way to the hill of Calvary (now contained within the Holy Sepulchre church). Modern archaeologists consider the gate probably dates from the 2nd century.
The excavators also uncovered remains of the easternmost parts of Constantine’s 4th-century church, including the wide staircase that led to the church entrance.
As New Testament scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor put it, what was found “corresponds exactly to the eastern end of the Constantinian Holy Sepulchre as depicted in the sixth-century Madaba Map”.