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That means, this place [was] outside of the city, without any doubt…", During 1973–1978 restoration works and excavations inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and under the nearby Muristan, it was found that the area was originally a quarry, from which white Meleke limestone was struck; surviving parts of the quarry to the north-east of the chapel of St.
Helena are now accessible from within the chapel (by permission).
About a stone's throw from thence is a vault [crypta] wherein his body was laid, and rose again on the third day.
There, at present, by the command of the Emperor Constantine, has been built a basilica; that is to say, a church of wondrous beauty.
Constantine's construction took over most of the site of the earlier temple enclosure, and the Rotunda and cloister (which was replaced after the 12th century by the present Catholicon and Calvary chapel) roughly overlap with the temple building itself; the basilica church which Constantine built over the remainder of the enclosure was destroyed at the turn of the 11th century, and has not been replaced.
Christian tradition claims that the location had originally been a Christian place of veneration, but that Hadrian had deliberately buried these Christian sites and built his own temple on top, on account of his alleged hatred for Christianity.
There is certainly evidence that circa 160 CE, at least as early as 30 years after Hadrian's temple had been built, Christians associated it with the site of Golgotha; Melito of Sardis, an influential mid-2nd century bishop in the region, described the location as "in the middle of the street, in the middle of the city", which matches the position of Hadrian's temple within the mid-2nd century city.
A typical Roman city was built according to a Hippodamian grid plan; a North-South arterial road, the Cardo (which is now the Suq Khan-ez-Zeit), and an East-West arterial road, the Decumanus Maximus (which is now the Via Dolorosa). The Western Forum (now Muristan) is located on the crossroads of the West Cardo and what is now El-Bazar/David Street, with the Temple of Aphrodite adjacent, on the intersection of the Western Cardo and the Via Dolorossa.
Archaeological excavations under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have revealed Christian pilgrims' graffiti, dating from the period that the Temple of Aphrodite was still present, of a ship, a common early Christian symbol lending possible support to the statement by Melito of Sardis asserting that early Christians identified Golgotha as being in the middle of Hadrian's city rather than outside.
The New Testament describes the crucifixion site, Golgotha, as being "near the city" (John ), and "outside the city wall" (Hebrews ).
Matthew and Mark both note that the location would have been accessible to "passers-by".
These often attempt to show the site as it would have appeared to Constantine.
However, as the ground level in Roman times was about 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) lower and the site housed Hadrian's temple to Aphrodite, much of the surrounding rocky slope must have been removed long before Constantine built the church on the site.