Researchers have uncovered the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The tomb’s surface covered by a thick layer of marble, according to an exclusive by National Geographic has now been removed to reveal the tomb for the first time since at least 1555 Ce, and possibly much earlier.
This covering is being restored by a team of scientists directed by Antonia Moropoulou of the National Technical University of Athens, a specialist in building materials and the preservation of monuments.
“The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it,” said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, a partner in the restoration project. “It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid.”
The restoration of the tomb is due to be completed in the spring of 2017.
The total costs of the project will run to more than $4Million and donations to fund the restoration include a multi-million-dollar sum from King Abdullah of Jordan.
“We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” Moropoulou said. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.”
In 2015, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with the agreement of the other two major communities, invited the National Technical University of Athens (which had previously led restoration projects on the Athenian Acropolis and the Hagia Sophia) to study the Edicule. The communities of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre agreed to restore the structure in March 2016, with work to be completed by the spring of 2017. Major donors to the $4-million-plus project include a royal benefaction from Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and $1.3-million gift from Mica Ertegun to the World Monuments Fund in support of the project.
Six Christian sects including the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Armenian Orthodox church, have custody over the church of the Holy Sepulchre.