What is believed to be the tomb of Jesus, at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre Church, has been unveiled again after nearly 10 months of restoration work. Last spring, it was on the verge of collapse.
Religious leaders opened the ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Wednesday, with many other dignitaries present, including Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Hymns were sung at this place considered to be one of Christendom's most holy sites - believed to be where Jesus was buried after his crucifixion.
The restoration is not only a gift to our Holy Land, but to the whole world," said Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem in his address to the ceremony, which he also attended.
"For the first time in over two centuries, this sacred Edicule has been restored," he said.
Restored to its former glory
A team of scientists and restorers focused primarily on the Edicule, the shrine surrounding the tomb that was built in 1810 and in dire need of reinforcement and conservation. Restoration also included work on the drainage network for rainwater and sewage, Antonia Moropoulou, a professor at the the National Technical University of Athens, who directed the conservation project that cost over $3.3 million, told Reuters news agency.
The shrine has also been restored to a warm, reddish-yellow coloring. Centuries of candle smoke and traces from visiting pilgrims had left the shrine strongly discolored, and even black in places.
Custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations, but tensions between the groups have impaired restoration work over the past 200 years. However, according to media reports, all the denominations contributed financially to the repair work, as did Jordan's King Abdullah with a personal donation.
Last year, Israeli authorities deemed the church unsafe. Israel has controlled East Jerusalem since its capture in the 1967 Middle East war.
als/kbm (AFP, Reuters)