In a report published yesterday, archaeological testing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre confirm the age of Jesus Christ’s tomb to align with the fourth-century construction of the Edicule that houses it.
Prior to the publication of the report, architectural evidence from within and around the tomb complex could only provide a confirmation of the tomb’s age dating back to the early years of the Crusades. This align’s with the tomb’s destruction in 1009 A.D. and its subsequent rebuilding.
However, in October of 2016, a team of researchers from the National Technical University of Athens in Greece opened the tomb for the first time in centuries as part of a restoration effort of the Edicule, Latin for “little house,” which houses Christ’s tomb within. They took samples from various locations within the Edicule for testing, and confirmed that the mortar dates back to the year 345 A.D.
Catholic tradition says that the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was Christ’s burial place after His Crucifixion. In 325, Emperor Constantine sent Church representatives to Jerusalem to find the tomb. They were directed to a shrine to a pagan Roman god, which Constantine ordered to be destroyed. The tomb was discovered beneath it, carved into a limestone cave. Constantine had the Edicule built around it and sealed with marble.
The dating of the mortar between the limestone cave and marble slab align perfectly with the date for the construction of the Edicule, lending credence to the tradition of it housing the tomb of Christ.
“It is interesting how mortars not only provide evidence of the earliest shrine on the site, but also confirm the historical construction sequence of the Edicule.” – Antonia Moropoulou, leader of the restoration team.
Not only does it confirm the age of the Edicule, it confirms that for nearly 1700 years the tomb of Christ has remained untouched throughout the destruction of the original church and complex built around it.
“We finally have scientific proof that this site, the tomb of Jesus Christ, one of the holiest sites in Christianity, has been unbroken for seventeen hundred years” – Kristin Romey, author of results article
Today, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic churches have equal rights to the interior of the tomb. All three celebrate Mass their daily, and use the location occasionally for ceremonies.