Tomb of Christ re-opens to pilgrims

Tomb of Christ re-opens to pilgrims The restored tomb of Christ.

Christian pilgrims can once again visit one of the Faith’s holiest sites. The restored tomb in which Jesus’ body is believed to have been buried following his crucifixion has been reopened following extensive restoration and conservation work.

Housed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, it was closed for the nine-month renovation project, which focused on a small structure above the burial chamber, known as the Edicule.

“If the 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, which had oversight of the project, said. “This is a complete transformation of the monument,” he added.


The delicate restoration was carried out by a team of about 50 experts from the National Technical University of Athens, which had previously worked on the Acropolis in the Greek capital and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The conservators worked mainly at night in order to allow pilgrims continued access to the shrine.

As part of the restoration, a marble slab covering the rock-carved tomb was lifted for the first time in more than two centuries, allowing restoration workers to examine the original rock shelf or ‘burial bed’ on which Jesus’ body is thought to have rested. A small window has been cut into marble slabs to allow pilgrims a glimpse of the rock.

The team also repaired and stabilised the shrine with titanium bolts and mortar, and cleaned thick layers of candle soot. The work involved the use of radar, laser scanners and drones.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the heart of the Christian quarter of the walled Old City, covers the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. It is a huge attraction for pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, many weeping and clutching precious mementos or photographs of loved ones and forming long queues for the shrine.

Six denominations – Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Copts – share custodianship of the cavernous church.

The $4m (€3.5m) cost of the restoration came from contributions from the six denominations which share custody of the church, King Abdullah of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Mica Ertegun, the widow of Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, who gave $1.3m.