JERUSALEM – For the first time in almost half a millennium, the marble slab covering the Tomb of Christ was completely pulled back on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, during this time of restoration work of the Aedicule in the Holy Sepulchre. Under this plate, another marble slab of the Crusaders’ era was found with a cross carved on the surface. Underneath, was the original limestone burial bed, the tomb of Jesus.
The marble slab of the Tomb had already been partially moved in 1809, but it was only in 1555, during the earlier renovation work of the Aedicule, that it had been completely removed.
Heads of various Churches, some religious and a privileged few present on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, marveled and venerated the original stone of the Holy Tomb. For this particularly delicate operation, the Aedicule was closed to the public. National Geographic Society camera crews were present to ensure media coverage for this very significant event.
Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, cannot contain his excitement: “It is very moving to know that the Tomb of Christ, of which the stone was rolled back in that very place two thousand years ago, on the day of Resurrection is reopened to the light. It is a totally spiritual emotion. From a biblical and archaeological point of view also, this opening arouses our curiosity and we look forward to learn more about the history of this Tomb through the centuries. ”
The Bishop added: “this event suddenly brings back the awe and wonder of the women who arrived at the Tomb on that Resurrection morning. The original rock on which Christ was laid is there intact, and the tomb is empty. He is not here, He is risen. This is our faith.”
At the opening of the Tomb, a sweet fragrance spread throughout the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. At the same time, according to testimony reported by the Custody of the Holy Land, magnetic disturbances occurred, complicating the process of taking scientific measurements.
“It will be a lengthy scientific analysis but we will finally be able to see the original surface on which the body of Christ was laid” noted Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist from the National Geographic Society, a partner of the Holy Sepulchre restoration project that started in May.
The Greek team directing the restoration project will work until early 2017. In the meantime, the National Geographic Channel will offer a documentary which will be released in November.
Vivien Laguette and Myriam Ambroselli