The site of the Crucifixion of Jesus, identified with Golgotha and the Place of the Skull (Mt 27.33; Mk 15.22; Jn 19.17). The Greek equivalent is κρανίου τόπος, which in Lk 23.33 is given as the name of the Crucifixion site without mention of the Aramaic form Golgotha (skull). It is not known why the place was so called. Jerome suggested that the skulls of criminals lay about unburied; according to an early Christian tradition cited by Origen, it was believed that the skull of Adam was buried under the cross. But more probably the name is connected with the skull-like shape of the hill or rock.
Calvary was located outside Jerusalem (Mt 27.32; Mk 15.20; Heb 13.12) near a garden, where at least one tomb was located (Jn 19.41–42); it was a conspicuous place near the city (Jn 19.20), easily seen from a distance (Mk 15.40; Lk 23.49), and probably near a country road (Mt 27.39; Mk 15.29). The traditional site of the Crucifixion dates back to the 4th century, when the Emperor Constantine (324–337) laid bare the rock and erected there the church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Resurrection. Calvary or Golgotha is located today within the compound of the Holy Sepulcher. Until a.d. 43, this site lay outside the northern wall of Jerusalem. Under Emperor Hadrian (a.d. 117–138), Jerusalem was rebuilt and renamed Aelia Capitolina; the Calvary or Golgatha area and the Holy Sepulcher were covered with rubble and formed part of the forum of the new city. Today, sections of the original walls of the city, whose exact line has not yet been traced, can be seen. The small, modern chapel of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the bedrock on which the original tomb of Christ once stood.
See Also: sepulcher, holy.
Bibliography: c. kopp, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 4:1046–47; The Holy Places of the Gospels, tr. r. walls (New York 1963) 374–388. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, translated and adapted by l. hartman (New York, 1963) 887–888; 1021–23. l. h. vincent and f. m. abel, Jérusalem nouvelle, v. 2 of Jérusalem, 2 v. in 4 (Paris 1912–26). a. parrot, Golgotha and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, tr. e. hudson (New York 1957). j. simons, Jerusalem in the Old Testament (Leiden 1952).
Calvary (kăl´vərē) [Lat.,=a skull] or Golgotha (gŏl´gəthə) [Heb.,=a skull], in the Gospels, place where Jesus was crucified, outside what was then the wall of Jerusalem. Its location is not certainly known. The traditional identification of the site of Calvary was made by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, when she found (c.326) what was believed to be a relic of the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified. The spot is within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In 1885 General Charles G. Gordon proposed a site near the Damascus Gate, first suggested in 1842. This is called the Garden Tomb or Gordon's Calvary.
The word calvary is also used to designate a sculpture or picture representing the scene of the Crucifixion.