The purported site of Jesus’ tomb is slated to be reopened to the public this week after a team of restorers and scientist completed the renovation of the Edicule, a shrine that is believed to house the cave where Jesus was entombed and resurrected.
The Edicule, located at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, needed reinforcement and conservation, including the installation of an underground drainage network for rainwater and sewage, according to Antonia Moropoulou, who directed the restoration work at the site.
The restorers have removed the iron cage built around the shrine by British authorities in 1947 in order to shore up the walls, according to The Associated Press. The team also cleared the black soot that accumulated on the shrine’s stone facade from decades of pilgrims lighting candles.
Moropoulou, a professor at the National Technical University of Athens, said that extensive work has been done on the tomb’s masonry, and titanim bolts have been inserted into the stone slabs, including the one covering the tomb.
The custody of the church is shared by The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations, who have held up the restoration work on the site for over 200 years because of interdenominational disputes. The restoration only started last year when the church was deemed unsafe by Israeli authorities.
“If this intervention hadn’t happened now, there is a very great risk that there could have been a collapse. This is a complete transformation of the monument,” said Bonnie Burnham of the World Monuments Fund.
The tomb was exposed for the first time in October last year when the scientists removed the marble cladding that covered it since at least 1555 A.D. The tomb was identified as a relic in 326 A.D. by Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, said at that time that the scientists were surprised by the amount of material beneath the marble covering.
“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,” he added.
Each denomination made contributions to the project, which cost around $3.3 million. Jordan’s King Abdullah also made a personal donation for the restoration of the site, according to media reports.