After nine months of restoration, the tomb where, according to tradition, Christ was buried, was unveiled Wednesday during a ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
Begun in May 2016, the vast renovation project consolidated the marble edifice which overhangs the tomb – completely dismantled by Greek specialists and then rebuilt identically – and to restore its original colors to the holiest place Of Christianity.
During the ceremony on Wednesday, which was attended by many dignitaries from different Christian denominations, for the first time in decades, the building was unveiled without the metallic structure that barred its view before.
“It is not just a gift to the Holy Land, it is a gift to the whole world,” Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem said in the guest room, including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“Before, the monument was all black”, the walls of the edicule having been darkened by the smoke of the candles of the pilgrims, explains to the AFP the restorer in chief Antonia Moropoulou. Today, “it has resumed its true color, the color of hope”.
The site has lived in October for an “historic” moment: the marble plaque covering the tomb was moved for three days. The last time that men had reached the heart of the holiest place of Christianity dates back to 1810, when restoration work was undertaken following a fire.
In the 1960s and 1990s, further renovations were carried out in different parts of the church, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the outskirts of the holy places of Judaism and Islam, the Wailing Wall and Esplanade of the Mosques. The edicule, on the other hand, had been neglected.
In nine months, however, and for a total of 3.4 million euros (CAN $ 4.9 million), virtually everything was dismantled, cleaned and restored, including the columns and domes above and Inside the building. A window has been pierced to allow the pilgrims to see the bare stone of the old vault for the first time.
The works were financed by the three main Christian denominations of the Holy Sepulcher (Greek-Orthodox, Franciscan, Armenian) as well as by public and private contributors.
Samuel Aghoyan, the superior of the Armenian church, welcomed the fact that the edicule now has “the appearance of a new edifice” after this restoration.
According to Christian tradition, the body of Jesus was placed in a funerary bed carved in the rock following its crucifixion by the Romans in the year 30 or 33. Christians believe that Christ has resurrected and that women came Anoint his body three days after his funeral did not find him there.
Some Christians believe that Jesus was buried in the Garden of the Tomb, located outside the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. But according to Antonia Moropoulou, what was found during the works proves that the tomb of Jesus is in the aedicule.
Other projects are envisaged to reinforce the foundations of the edicule and to restore the ground of the church, explains Samuel Aghoyan. But such a transaction requires at least C $ 8 million.
Moreover, such works presuppose that the Orthodox Greeks, the Armenian and Catholic churches, who share control over the place, overcome their disputes, which in the past have caused postponements of renovation.