Friday, 31 March 2017

One of the holiest sites in Christianity has reopened in time for Easter

The centrepiece of the Holy Fire ritual
In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Aedicule, constructed over the presumed site of Jesus’s burial and resurrection, was at risk of collapsing. Its marble cladding, last rebuilt in 1810 after a fire destroyed the shrine’s exterior, was quick to destabilise as a result of poor drainage, humidity and constant use. It has now been conserved (Mary Pelletier, 'Jesus’s tomb has been restored' Apollo magazine, 28th March 2017).
Since 1947, an incongruent iron cage-like structure, put in place by British Mandate authorities, supported the Edicule. Its marble walls were blackened by the build-up of soot from the church’s many candles and lanterns, and the wear and tear of centuries of pilgrimage were evident both inside and out. Incredibly, the tomb remained open to pilgrims and tourists throughout the year-long, €3.7 million renovation. The conservation team from the National Technical University of Athens, headed by Antonia Moropoulou, worked day and night to assess the tomb’s structural decay, and carry out scientifically appropriate rehabilitation techniques. This Easter, pilgrims will see the Edicule as it appeared 200 years ago. The 70-year old iron structure put in place by the British has disappeared. The marble cladding was removed, cleaned and reinforced with titanium supports, and the Edicule’s onion-style dome design was restored to its original blues and greys. In October 2016, the team uncovered the tomb itself, and confirmed the base marble slab dates back to the 4th century Constantinian period. And for the first time in history, the frescoes decorating the entryway’s Chapel of the Angel were cleaned and revealed.

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