A conservation team headed by the National Technical University of Athens working on a restoration project of the Holy Edicule in Israel, the shrine that surrounds the stone tomb believed to belong to Christ, peeled back marble slabs dating back to at last 1555 AD covering the original bedrock where Jesus Christ is said to have been buried after being crucified.
“The Greek conservation group are the first, as far as we know, to actually open this,” National Geographic archaeologist-in-residence Fredrik Hiebert told Live Science. “It’s pretty exceptional.”
It was Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, who had a shrine – the Holy Edicule – constructed over the cave in 326. The site has been a sacred place for 1,600 years.
The Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Armenian Orthodox Church manage the site and agreed in 1958 that conservation of the Holy Edicule was required. It has, however, taken nearly 50 years to agree on a method and to secure funding, which according to National Geographic – a partner in the project – will cost over 4 million dollars.
Due to years of experience with ancient structures like the Parthenon, the Greek experts will inject mortar around the marble slabs that make up the Holy Edicule, Hiebert said.
Analysis cannot be conducted to assess whether Christ was actually buried there as there are no remains or DNA evidence to exhume.
“It’s a matter of faith,” Hiebert told Live Science.