Home > WORLD NEWS > 9 Months Later: Jesus’ Tomb Restored By Scientists In $4M Project

9 Months Later: Jesus’ Tomb Restored By Scientists In $4M Project

Tomb

A team of Greek scientists and restoration crews have finally completed a nine-month project to restore Jesus’ tomb, the Guardian reports.

According to the Christian faith, after Jesus was crucified, he was taken off the cross and laid to rest in a tomb donated by a wealthy benefactor. A stone was rolled in front of the tomb and guards were stationed. Therein occurred the miracle that Christianity hinges upon—the Easter story. In a great earthquake, the stone rolled away and when guards inspected the tomb, they found his body was gone. Jesus was thought to have risen from the dead. Christian writings teach that he appeared to a handful of friends in the days following.

The tomb is on the property of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. It has been a tourist attractions for Christians the world over. But, the fighting sects of Orthodox Christianity regarding the ownership of the property, have been bitter and the property has not been renovated since the 1800’s. The tomb is housed in a structure called The Edicule and was nearly destroyed by fire in 1808. It was rebuilt in 1810. It now has twisted columns, carved monuments, paintings, and oil lamps. Visitors can come to the Edicule and many pray and hold photos of departed loved ones.

But in 2015, Israeli government ruled the site unsafe and closed it down. The structure needed reinforcement as it was in danger of collapsing. The chapel building needed better drainage systems for rainwater and sewage, and well as repair to the rock structure, and general construction work. The full project was estimated at $4 million. This led to a fundraising effort led by the New York based World Monuments Fund.

“I would venture to say that if this intervention hadn’t happened now, there was a very great risk that there could have been a collapse,” said Bonnie Burnham, of WMF.  “This is a complete transformation of the monument.”

The denominations which controlled the property relented and set aside their warring differences for the restoration of the shrine. Also notable donations came from King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mica Ertegun, whose late husband co-founded Atlantic Records, donated $1.3 million.

In May 2016, the same team of Greek scientists and restoration crews that worked on the Hagia Sophia and restored the Greek Acropolis, took on the project. The structure was stabilized with bolts and mortar and workers cleaned soot and pigeon droppings using lasers, radar and drones. They also removed an iron cage around the shrine built by a British team in 1947. They cleaned the soot off the walls from the candle-lit vigils of tourists. The frescoes that decorated the shrine, and the Russian style dome above it, were also cleaned and restored to their original glory.

The most significant part of the project was when the crews removed the marble slab covering the actual tomb. The tomb has been covered since 1555, National Geographic reports, to prevent the ancient burial site from being destroyed and bits and pieces of souvenir rock being carried off.

In October 2016, in a historic moment, the marble slab was removed. No one had been inside for close to two thousand years. The research team worked for 60 hours on the project to open and restore the tomb. They found a layer of debris they didn’t expect and will be testing pieces of it. But under the debris, the archaeological crew was able to examine the rock shelf, called the “burial bed,” where Jesus is believed to have laid. They opened it to find a white marble slab with a cross engraving. They believe this to have been left by a 14the century Crusader.  Beneath that was another layer with mortar that researchers believe dates back to the fourth century when the Church of Holy Sepulchre was built. And still, beneath that, there was a gray marble slab, the very place where they believe Jesus rested.

“It seems we are in front of levels of history that are validated,” said Antonia Moropoulou, who supervised the renovation.

“It was really important to see the bench, very flat and almost complete, from the right to the left, almost for the shape of one man [who] can stay on it,” said Eugenio Alliata, an Italian archaeologist in Jerusalem  told NPR. “This was really something very important. And it was the first time it has been documented as it is.”

In video segments, the researchers commented on the “feeling of specialness,” of the tomb. Underneath the debris, the limestone shelf is still in tact.

On Wednesday, March 22, the renovated Edicule will be unveiled for the public in a ceremony officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, sent by Pope Francis. But the tomb itself will be resealed for preservation once the research is complete. As far as the Edicule, chapel staff expect there to be better regulations for the preservation of the tomb for centuries to come.

But for now, it’s a beautiful moment. All in perfect time for Easter.

  1. March 26, 2017 at 4:44 PM

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