Built originally by the Roman Emperor Constantine I (r.307-37) in 325, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands on the site of the tomb of Christ, the site of the Crucifixion and the grotto where St. Helena discovered the Cross. For these reasons the Church is one of the most revered sites in Christianity and one which pilgrims and crusaders in the medieval period saw as the centre of the world - hence the names of the four points, written on the flat roof of this model in Latin.
Friction between religious communities led to the destruction of the church in 1009, and since then it has undergone several building and restoration programs. After the discovery and excavation of Christian sites in Jerusalem, the city became the focus of a new wave of pilgrims, and hence too also a tempting opportunity for tourism and commercial venture which continues to this day.
A group of earlier related models created in the 17th century as elaborate souvenirs made to satisfy the pilgrim market exist in several museum collections. Made of costly materials including olive wood, ivory, ebony and mother-of-pearl it would have been an exotic souvenir for only the wealthiest of pilgrims.
The British Museum holds one in it's collection, formerly belonging to Sir Hans Sloane (inv. no. M&ME Sloane 153). Another is recorded in the Chapel at Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire.