AskDefine | Define calvary

Dictionary Definition



1 a hill near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified [syn: Golgotha]
2 any experience that causes intense suffering [syn: martyrdom]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Calvary



  1. A life-size representation of the Crucifixion on a piece of raised ground
  2. A series of representations of Christ’s Passion in a church


  • OED 2nd edition 1989

Extensive Definition

''"Golgotha" redirects here. For other uses, see Golgotha (disambiguation). For other uses of the term "Calvary" and "Mount Calvary," see Calvary (disambiguation) and Mount Calvary (disambiguation).
Calvary or Golgotha are the English language/Western Christian names given to the site, outside of ancient Jerusalem’s early 1st century walls, ascribed to Jesus's crucifixion. The exact location is handed down from antiquity. Although the significance of the name is lost to modernity, Calvariae Locus in Latin, Κρανιου Τοπος (Kraniou Topos) in Greek, and Gûlgaltâ in Aramaic all denote "place of [the] skull". In some Christian and Jewish traditions, the name refers to the location of the skull of Adam. The word "Calvary" comes from Calvaria in the Latin Vulgate.

Calvary/Golgotha in the Bible

Although usage since the sixth century has been to designate Calvary as a mountain,.
Inside the church is a rock, about 7 m long by 3 m wide by 4.8 m high, Observation suggests that from the city the little hill (which still exists) could have looked like a skull. In 1986, a ring was found of 11.5 cm diameter, struck into the stone, which could have held a wood trunk of up to 2.5 m height.
The church is accepted as the Tomb of Jesus by prominent historians and the little rock currently inside the present church as the location of Calvary. In 333, the Pilgrim of Bordeaux wrote, "On the left hand is the 'little' hill of Golgotha where the Lord was crucified (Latin original: … est monticulus golgotha, ubi dominus crucifixus est.), pages 593, 594). 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." Eyewitness Cyril of Jerusalem, a distinguished theologian of the early Church, speaks of Golgotha in eight separate passages, sometimes as near to the church in which he and his listeners were assembled: "Golgotha, the holy hill standing above us here, bears witness to our sight: the Holy Sepulchre bears witness, and the stone which lies there to this day." And just in such a way the pilgrim Egeria often reported in 383: "… the church, built by Constantine, which is situated in Golgotha …", and also bishop Eucherius of Lyon wrote to the island presbyter Faustus in 440: "Golgo­tha is in the middle between the Anastasis and the Martyrium, the place of the Lord's passion, in which still appears that rock which once endured the very cross on which the Lord was." (See also: Eusebius (338) and Breviarius de Hierosolyma (530)). Professor Dan Bahat, one of Israel's leading archaeologists, the former City Archaeologist of Jerusalem and a senior lecturer at the Land of Israel Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, comments, "We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulchre Church is the site of Jesus' burial, but we have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site" (Bahat, 1986). In 2007, he stated, "Six graves from the first century were found on the area of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. That means, this place laid here outside of the city, without any doubt, and is the possible place for the tomb of Jesus."

Disputed Claims of Charles Gordon

After time spent in Palestine in 1882–83, Charles George Gordon suggested Calvary might have been in a different location. It was not then known that the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was actually outside of the city walls at the time of the crucifixion. The Garden Tomb is to the north of the Holy Sepulchre, located outside of the modern Damascus Gate, in a place that was used for burial at least as early as the Byzantine period. The Garden has an earthen cliff that contains two large sunken holes that people say are the eyes of the skull to which "Golgotha" refers.

Other uses of the name

  • The name Calvary often refers to sculptures or pictures representing the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus, or a small wayside shrine incorporating such a picture. It also can be used to describe larger, more monument-like constructions, essentially artificial hills often built by devotees.
  • Churches in various Christian denominations have been named Calvary. The name is also sometimes given to cemeteries, especially those associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Two Catholic religious orders have been dedicated to Mount Calvary. Several places worldwide have been named after it; including the town Kalvarija in Lithuania and towns Góra Kalwaria and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in Poland.
  • In the 18th and early 19th centuries at Oxford and Cambridge universities the rooms of the heads of colleges and halls were nicknamed golgotha. Apart from the obvious pun on the place of skulls (i.e. heads), this was also due to the punishments that students received in these rooms.
  • In Simon R. Green's "Deathstalker" saga, the central planet of the Empire is called Golgotha, and later, Logres.
  • The influential Louisiana sludge metal band Acid Bath's previous incarnation was known as Golgotha, and Acid Bath's first release was a demo entitled Golgotha.
  • In the first book of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series, the Gunslinger, the main character, Roland and the Man in Black, meet in a place they call Golgotha where the Man in Black turns to bones.
  • In the gospel song "Complete" by Parachute Band. "Then I'll see beyond my calvary one day, and I will be complete in you."
calvary in Arabic: جلجثة
calvary in Catalan: Gòlgota
calvary in Czech: Golgota
calvary in German: Golgatha
calvary in Modern Greek (1453-): Γολγοθάς
calvary in Spanish: Calvario
calvary in Esperanto: Golgoto
calvary in French: Golgotha (Calvaire)
calvary in Italian: Calvario
calvary in Hebrew: גבעת הגולגולתא
calvary in Georgian: გოლგოთა
calvary in Hungarian: Kálvária
calvary in Macedonian: Голгота
calvary in Dutch: Golgotha
calvary in Japanese: ゴルゴタの丘
calvary in Norwegian: Golgata
calvary in Norwegian Nynorsk: Golgata
calvary in Polish: Golgota
calvary in Portuguese: Calvário (Gólgota)
calvary in Russian: Голгофа
calvary in Slovenian: Golgota
calvary in Serbian: Голгота
calvary in Finnish: Golgata
calvary in Swedish: Golgata
calvary in Ukrainian: Голгофа
calvary in Chinese: 各各他
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