The irony may have been intentional or otherwise, but CBS reports that the tomb traditionally believed to be the resting place of Jesus’s crucified body in Jerusalem has been restored to its former glory, “just in time for Easter.”
The Edicule is housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. In 2015 the building was closed briefly over safety concerns. Last summer, restoration efforts began, funded by substantial donations from the World Monuments Fund, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, along with private and church funds.
“If this intervention hadn’t happened now, there is a very great risk that there could have been a collapse,” Bonnie Burnham of the World Monuments Fund said Monday. “This is a complete transformation of the monument.”
A Greek team from the National Technical Institute of Athens carried out the painstaking work.
On Oct. 26, the team entered the inner sanctum of the shrine, the burial chamber of Jesus, and temporarily slid open an old marble layer covering the bedrock where Jesus’ body is said to have been placed.
Below the outer marble layer was a white rose marble slab engraved with a cross, which the team dated to the late Crusader period of the 14th century. Beneath that marble slab was an even older, grey marble slab protecting the bedrock, and mortar on the slab dates to the 4th century, when Roman Emperor Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built.
The restorers have cut a small window from the shrine’s marble walls for pilgrims to see — for the first time — the bare stone of the ancient burial cave.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and a representative of Pope Francis will attend a ceremony Wednesday to mark the completion of the renovation, in a church that has historically seen Christians divided over competing claims to the sacred site.
Read more about the restoration project at CBS and the Times of Israel.
Featured image: the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by Shmuel Bar-Am, via Times of Israel