ISRAEL – Newly restored tomb of Jesus rededicated
The tomb believed to be that of Jesus has just been restored in a multi-million dollar renovation. The shrine needed urgent attention after years of exposure to the candle smoke, water and humidity due to condensation from the breath of visitors.
In 2015, Israeli police briefly shut down the building after Israel’s Antiquities Authority deemed it unsafe. Repairs began in June 2016.The old shrine is believed now to be stable for the first time in 200 years and the iron cage built around the shrine by British authorities in 1947 to shore up the walls has been removed. ‘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 (WMF) said. ‘This is a complete transformation of the monument.’
A restoration team from the National Technical University of Athens stripped the stone slabs from the shrine’s façade to remove the black soot from decades of pilgrims lighting candles. The team then patched up the internal masonry of the shrine, injecting it with tubes of grout for reinforcement. Each stone slab was cleaned before being put back in place. Titanium bolts were inserted into the structure for reinforcement, while frescos and the shrine’s painted dome were renovated.
In October, the team entered the inner sanctum of the shrine and temporarily slid open an old marble layer, revealing a white rose marble slab below engraved with a cross that dates back to the late Crusader period of the 14th century. Beneath that marble slab was an even older, grey marble slab protecting the bedrock. Mortar on the slab dates to the 4th century, when Constantine ordered the Church to be built. The team also cut a small window from the shrine’s marble walls so the first time this Easter pilgrims will now be able to see the bare stone of the ancient burial cave.
The WMF provided an initial $1.4 million for the $4 million restoration, thanks to a donation by the widow of the founder of Atlantic Records. Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also contributed around 150,000 euros each, along with other private and church donations
An ecumenical re-dedication service took place in Jerusalem’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre as restoration work on the chapel containing Jesus burial place was unveiled. Representatives of all the local Christian Churches gathered alongside special guests including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world. Pope Francis was represented by the Vatican’s representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.