The city buzzed with religious activity. Orthodox Christians, who observe a different calendar, marked Palm Sunday, and thousands of Jewish worshippers celebrating the Passover festival thronged a plaza opposite the Western Wall for a traditional blessing.
Roman Catholics held Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to mark the site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and then resurrected on Easter Sunday. Brown-robed friars marched into the church to the sound of bagpipes, followed by clergymen in purple capes and others bearing crosses.
Pilgrims stood by, some filming with small video cameras. The scene outside the church was broadcast to believers worldwide over the internet by the Florida-based US company, IPrayTV.com.
Another group of pilgrims, however, chose to mark Easter Sunday outside the walls of the Old City at the Garden Tomb, which some Protestants sanctify as an alternative site for the last events of Jesus' life.
Roman Catholics at Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Photo: AFP)
Protestant groups from the US, the Philippines and elsewhere gathered at the garden, swaying and singing along with a Christian rock band and listening to a sermon from Peter Wells, who heads the Garden Tomb Association.
"Risen lord Jesus, the lamb upon the throne, we join with all of heaven in declaring your glory," Wells said. "We welcome you to our resurrection garden, and invite you to have your way among us. As we celebrate today, and as we serve you tomorrow, we rejoice that you conquered sin, death and the grave, and that now you reign victorious, forever glorious."
Also Sunday morning, Orthodox priests in black robes and beards and carrying palm fronds filed into the Holy Sepulcher for their Palm Sunday ceremony. The Holy Sepulcher is shared by Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian Christians, along with several smaller sects.
Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus entered Jerusalem and was greeted by cheering crowds with palm fronds.
Not far away, in a plaza opposite the 2,000-year-old stones of the Western Wall, Jews gathered for the traditional priestly blessing, a remnant of ritual from the biblical Jewish Temple. The Western Wall, a retaining wall from the Second Temple, is the holiest site where Jews can pray.
Covered in white prayer shawls, descendants of the Temple's priestly class blessed the assembled worshippers: "May God lift his countenance upon you and may he give you peace."