Hundreds of Christian faithful last week marked the completion of the restoration of what Christians believe is the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The tomb, or edicule, as it is known, is a centerpiece of the church, which attracts Christian pilgrims from all over the world. The church also includes the traditional site of the crucifixion.
The renovation of the edicule was carried out by a Greek team of about 50 scientists, researchers and restoration experts from the University of Athens, who over a nine-month period did most of their work at night in an effort not to disrupt the use of the church.
The work included the removal of the marble on the tomb, which was cleaned of layers of grime and dust. It is thought that the marble has not been moved since the 1500s. The renovations included inserting rods and other materials to shore up the structure.
The work finally proceeded after getting around 200 years of controversies over the control of the vicinity of the tomb, while as the same time attempting to maintain the delicate fabric of relationships among the Christian denominations that share the church. The religious authorities responsible for the maintenance and administration of the tomb agreed to the renovation plan after Israeli authorities warned that the structure was unstable and was endangering visitors to the site.
The $3.3 million cost of the renovation work was shared by the six denominations that share control of the church. Each denomination has its own dedicated prayer area. The Greek Orthodox patriarch has the largest area of the church. Other locations in the sprawling ancient building are controlled by the Catholic Church, the Armenian Orthodox Church and the Egyptian Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian churches.