by Thomas Charrière, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem | Video Nizar Halloun/TSM
JERUSALEM, July 14, 2016 – Restoration of the Holy Tomb of Christ at the Holy Sepulchre started some three months ago. Blocks and scaffoldings now surround the Aedicule for reconstruction work which goes on 24 hours a day.
Pilgrims who come to worship at the Holy Sepulchre will be surprised at the view in front of their eyes: for several weeks the Tomb of Christ, under the big dome of the Basilica, has been almost entirely overshadowed by scaffoldings and blocks protecting the worksite.
The facade of the Aedicule has been stripped off, and the many decorative oil lamps have been replaced by security inlets, allowing the faithful to walk without risk inside the Holy Tomb. Gone are the lit candles around the building and the pilgrims attempting to look through the openings of the tomb. The surrounding space, filled by workers, is now closed to public. Regularly the Custody of the Holy Land, guardian of the site together with the Greek Orthodox Community and the Armenian Church, offers a progress report on the restoration project: “The most important work is focused on the Northern facade. There had been three walled-in windows drawn on the Ottoman baroque facade. They are no more. Marble stone plaques which shut them off were removed, revealing masonry”. The dismantled pieces have been taken to a workshop installed in the Franciscan Convent. They are being carefully cleaned and restored, according to their condition, and then stowed awaiting completion of the reconstruction project.
The work includes dismantling, cleaning, and reconstruction of the Tomb, which had become more and more fragile over the years because of the influx of pilgrims and tourists. Built in 1810 by the Greek Orthodox Community, following a fire which gutted the older construction of 1808, the present Edicule is the latest built on this site since the time of Emperor Constantine in the 5th Century.
The Tomb of Christ will remain accessible to pilgrims during the progress of the work and the restoration is expected to be completed in early next year. Worshippers who spend the night inside the Basilica will witness still noisier work which could require the closure of the whole structure.