The presentation of progress reports regarding the restoration project of the Aedicule

Jerusalem, 21 July 2016

On Thursday 21 July 2016, at 10:30 in the morning in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, there was a presentation of progress reports on the Aedicule restoration project to the heads and representatives of the Three Major Communities, who are ultimately responsible for the project. Present were his Beatitude the Greek Patriarch Theophilos III, the Custos of the Holy Land Br. Francesco Patton, OFM, Br. Dobromir Jasztal, the vicar of the Custody, Br. Sergio Galdi, the secretary, and Br. Athanasius Macora. Mr. Osama Hamdan, the architect representing the Custody in the Common Technical Bureau of the Holy Sepulchre was also present. The Armenians present were Fr. Samuel Aghoyan, Superior of the Holy Sepulchre and Fr. Koryoun Baghdasaryan. There were also members from the Steering Committee of the project and from the Technical team. There were about 30 people present in all. The presentation took place in two parts; the first part was made by Professor Antonia Moropoulou, the chief scientific supervisor of the project, concerning the technical and architectural aspects of the project and the second report was made by Mr. Nikolaos Moropoulos, the project manager. The general tenor of both reports was positive.

The session began with the Greek Patriarch welcoming everybody present.

Prof. Moropoulou gave the first presentation – a summary of the technical report on the progress of the Aedicule restoration project.
She gave a detailed analysis of the work and spoke about some of the problems encountered during the work. For the sake of accuracy citations will be taken directly from the report itself.

Prof. Moropoulou mentioned the conservation efforts previously done on the Aedicule using inappropriate materials, which she says must be removed. (cfr. The report, page 15)

“These interventions were implemented by the Technical Bureau with the use of incompatible materials and carried out in a manner aiming to cover up the problems arising due to the swelling and disintegration of the structural materials rather than correcting them, aggravated the state of the structural materials. This is mainly due to the use of cement mortars as detected in many areas of the lower part of the masonries. (page 15 of report)”

In the course of the project the technical team discovered problems which oblige them to make some modifications to the approach that they had originally planned. (cfr. the report, page 26.)

“The key finding that changed the original plan of work is that the masonry surrounding the Holy Rock is in bad shape, comprises stones of irregular and uneven shapes and needs to be rebuilt from scratch at its lower part, as it is a point of high risk for the stability of the monument and the Holy Rock on which it partially rests. This will be accomplished in a manner, as to relieve the Holy Rock of vertical loads as much as possible.” (page 26 )

She also spoke at length about questions concerning various mortars that were used in the past as well as modern approaches to this type of conservation.

Another problem noted by the professor is the presence of humidity coming from underneath the Aedicule which needs to be resolved. (cfr. The report page 116)

“Furthermore, the need for an interconnected infrastructure project has arisen, as the voids, underground channels and previous excavations around the Holy Aedicule highlight the need to study and document the historical aspect interlinking an infrastructure project. Therefore both of the following must be addressed:

—Documentation and Conservation of the pavement

—Construction of a sewage system

Thus the rehabilitation implementation should continue with these two issues.” (page 116)

Afterwards there was the presentation of Mr. Nikolaos Moropoulos, the project manager on administrative and financial details. A “Second regular progress report,” dated 20 July 2016, was distributed to those present.

Mr. Moropoulos followed the outline of the report, focusing on major details. He mentioned the necessity for the Heads of the Three Communities to provide additional financial contributions to close the remaining funding gaps. He said that he wants the cooperation with the Architects of the Common Technical Bureau in the Holy Sepulchre to be intensified.

He said that the team needs more space for the laboratory work in the Latin Gallery. He also mentioned that they want the communities to consider the change to the route that the pilgrims use when visiting the Tomb. He said that they have concerns for the safety of pilgrims.

The total length of both of the presentations was about one and half hours.

Project Owners Committee

After this meeting, about 12 p.m., a second meeting was held in the Patriarch’s offices where the Project Owner’s Committee meeting began. Present at this meeting was a more restricted group which included Theophilos III the Greek Patriarch, the Custos Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, and the Franciscan friars listed above. Also present were the Armenians, some Greek clergy and Prof. Antonia Moropoulou.

The Greek Patriarch read from a prepared text, stating that this is a shared project. He said that there is an attempt to maintain services in Holy Sepulchre tomb. He thanked a number of people and institutions for various levels of support.

The purpose for the meeting was to “to discuss strategic issues”. The GOP said that “we must remain on schedule and we must meet the payment schedule”.

Fr Athanasius Macora, OFM

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