Christ’s tomb surprises

Christ’s tomb is surprising its restoration team. The tomb is at the centre of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The team is hoping to uncover the original rock surface where Jesus’ body lay. This has involved uncovering a marble slab imposed over the site’s  innermost chamber. The slab was last removed in 1550.

A second debris-smothered marble slab appeared beneath the first one. It is grey, features a small etching of a cross and may date to the 12th century.

The restoration work has exposed the original burial cave, which experts believed long since destroyed.

Ground penetrating radar tests found the 180cm-high cave walls are still standing. They connect with bedrock  behind the central chamber’s marbled panels

National Geographic archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert is astonished by the find. (National Geographic is partnering with Greek restoration experts to document the work.)

The work is part of a project to reinforce and preserve the Edicule. The Edicule is the chamber housing the cave where Jesus’s body lay after the crucifixion. It is one of Christianity’s most important shrines.

Six Christian denominations practice their faith at the site.

The Edicule was last restored in 1810 following a fire.

Renovations need all the church’s custodians’ agreement. They approved these after Israel’s Antiquities Authority deemed the church unsafe and closed it.

Repairs began in June. The repair contract allows the crew 60 hours to complete the work. They are working day and night to reach the tomb’s core and to analyse it.

Hiebert doesn’t believe the excavations have uncovered the original rock yet.

“What happened here 2000 years ago completely changed the history of the world,” David Grenier said.

Grenier is the secretary of a group overseeing Catholic church properties in the Holy Land.

“To be able to dig, let’s say, to the rock where the body of Jesus was laid … it’s overwhelming joy.”


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News category: World.