‘Burial bed’ uncovered in Jerusalem where Jesus was laid; restoration to be completed in 2017

Onlookers — consisting of tourists, Greek Orthodox priests, conservators in hard hats and others — stood in anticipation as the elaborately carved layer of marble was removed for the first time from what is considered to be the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Located at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the shelf or “burial bed” where Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb had been covered by the marble slab for centuries, since at least 1555 A.D., according to news.nationalgeographic.com.

‘Long analysis’

When the slab was removed, researchers found a grey-beige surface and a surprising “amount of fill material beneath it,” according to Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society, headquartered in Washington D.C., is one of the largest nonprofit scientific institutions in the world.

“It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid,” Hiebert said.

The shelf, roughly 3 foot by 5 foot, was enclosed in a chapel-sized structure called the Aedicule, which also is undergoing restoration. The structure of the Aedicule suffered damage from an earthquake in the 1920s and from being boarded up in the 1940s.

Shared custody

The new historical find will give researchers a glimpse of what is considered to be the most sacred site in Christianity and analysis of the original rock may enable them to better understand not only the original form of the tomb chamber, but also how it evolved as the focal point of veneration since it was first identified by Helena in 326 A.D., the National Geographic reported.

Six Christian sects — Greek Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, Coptic Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Syriac Orthodox Church — maintain custody over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its contents.

The restoration of the tomb has an expected completion date of 2017 and the total cost is estimated at more than $4 million.

Exclusive look

An exclusive look at the restoration project will be shown in the month of November in “Explorer” on the National Geographic Channel. (TAB)