Entrance to the church
Passing through the small door, one enters into the area known technically as the narthex, which was constructed in the Byzantine period. In the ancient Christian tradition the narthex was the area serving as the entrance to the sacred areas, and was intended for catechumens who during certain moments of the celebrations were not allowed to enter into the church.
During the Constantinian period there had been no narthex, but instead an open, wide atrium which performed a similar function. The Justinian narthex has been divided into four areas, one of these serving as the entry area to the church.
During the Crusader period the areas at the two extremes served as bases for the four-storey-high bell towers that were built. A fourth area to the left of the entrance door is used by the soldiers who, since the Turkish period, have guarded the church. The episode is recounted with miraculous elements by the pilgrim Jean Boucher.
The entrance door, today covered by scaffolding, was a gift from the Armenian King Hetum in 1227, as indicated in the inscription which is in both Armenian and Arabic.