What is happening behind the fences around the tomb?

For over a month now, tall signs have been set up all around Jesus’ tomb. Terresainte.net, the Custody’s website dedicated to its bimonthly magazine, took a look behind the barriers.

(Jerusalem / Mab-NH) – The ongoing work on the empty tomb of Jesus is not discouraging pilgrims and tourists. Despite the decor, they still manage to take souvenir photos in front of the shrine.

Nonetheless, its appearance has very little for it to attract people’s attention.

The shrine’s façade is as naked as the first days of its construction: no more icons, oil lamps or tables. The only thing that remains is the image of the Holy Spirit hovering above the door that is hidden by the iron cage designed to protect pilgrims. That is still there, at least!

While explaining the work, Professor Maropoulo promised that the shrine would remain accessible and the promise was kept. All of the services are taking place, and during the day pilgrims can still enter the tomb, unless they prefer to enter the small Coptic Chapel to the other side of the entrance. 

And the choices stop there because the building, which has been under restoration since May 8 is now surrounded by fences that are two meters high.

But Terresainte.net has been following the work closely and the partner churches–Greek Orthodox, Franciscans and Armenians–have been helping to welcome pilgrims.

On the southern façade, where pilgrims were used to lighting candles, the reinforcing steel installed by the British was reinforced at its base. And scaffolding covers the whole area. There is so little to see now hardly anyone ever goes on it anymore.

The most important work is concentrated on the northern façade. The Ottoman Baroque architecture was designed on the front three windows that had been walled up. Now they no longer are. The marble slabs that closed them have been removed revealing some masonry. Photographic studies reveal that the wall has undergone at least two periods of construction, judging by the differences between the stones and their arrangement between them. As for the date, there is not yet any information that has been obtained by specialists and archaeologists.

This vision, which was made possible for the first time 206 years after the construction of the shrine, corroborates what Martin Biddle said in his book The Tomb of Christ: the building has layers to it, like an onion: one historical layer on top of another and the last one that covers the whole thing. Scientific studies, surveys and lasers had prepared the teams that are calmly carrying on with the work, which is very accurately revealing everything that appears.

Most often, the noisiest work, complete with drills and mallets, takes place at night but this is not always the case, as can be observed in this video.

Video : © Nizar Halloun/TSM

To more easily move their mobile scaffolding, temporary tiling was laid around the grave. A tarp covers the pink and black slabs of the rotunda, on which the workers have placed sand before placing heavy gray slabs.

All of the equipment that has been disassembled is taken away to the Franciscan gallery with a hoist installed near the arches of the Virgin. That is the elevated area where the laboratory was set up. It is the place where the workers can examine the materials, take measurements, make inventories and clean them.

During the summer, we will continue our inexperienced and curious observations.

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