The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was first dedicated in the 4th century AD during the reign of the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great. The site on which it stands has been continuously recognised by Christians as the place where Jesus died and was buried, and has attracted pilgrims for centuries. It is one of the most visited and most photographed of all holy buildings in the Middle East.
Francis Frith, photographing the building fourteen years after Girault de Prangey, noted its run-down state. Damage to the dome and the area immediately surrounding the church had occurred during a fire in 1808, and had still not been repaired fifty years later. This was no doubt one of the aspects of the crumbling city that led to a sense of disappointment experienced by many mid-19th century visitors to Jerusalem.
In this study the photographer focuses on the intricate Byzantine detailing of the capitals of the columns, which recede towards the doorways. Girault de Prangey was the first to photograph the building in any detail, and his photographs are the earliest to survive. The majority of photographers working later in the 19th century settled for only one or two views of the exterior of the building in their inventory of images, including of course, the standard view of the entrance façade. Girault de Prangey produced more of a survey of the building, and approximately thirteen views survive in the photographer's archive today. Three of these, including this example, show the finely carved capitals.