For the first time nearly half a millennia, the tomb of Jesus, the rock upon which he was laid after the Crucifixion, and from where He Resurrected, has been opened.
Researchers from the National Technical University of Athens had been given permission by the caretakers of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to remove a marble slab that had covered the limestone slab where Our Lord was placed as part of a conservation effort. It is the first time since at least 1555 that Tomb had been opened, and as such, it had never been photographed or seen by any person currently alive.
After removing the marble slab, researchers found a layer of fill debris, and below that, another marble slab engraved with a cross, likely from the Crusaders era. When the final layer was removed, a humble and rough-hewn limestone slab was revealed. This is believed to be the actual rock Our Lord laid for 3 days after the Crucifixion, and before his glorious Ressurection.
“I’m absolutely amazed. My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn’t expecting this,” said Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with National Geographic who granted exclusive permission to record the efforts. “We can’t say 100 percent, but it appears to be visible proof that the location of the tomb has not shifted through time, something that scientists and historians have wondered for decades.”
In addition, researchers confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls within the 18th-century Edicule, or shrine, which encloses the tomb. A window has been cut into the southern interior wall of the shrine to expose one of the cave walls. The researchers also confirmed the existence of the original limestone cave walls that encloses the tomb.
The site has been venerated since at least 325 A.D., when the Emporer Constantine sent his mother, Saint Helena the patroness of archaeologists, to locate the tomb. The locals directed her to a temple built by the Roman emperor Hadrian 200 years prior. Hadrian had the temple built over the tomb in an attempt to deter believers from venerating the site.
According to Saint Eusebius, the Roman temple was demolished and beneath it was found the rock-cut tomb. Constantine commissioned a Church to be built on the spot. Sadly, in 1009, Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the complete destruction of the church. The Church was rebuilt in 1028 after a treaty between the Byzantines and the Fatimids.
The conservation efforts of Christ’s tomb are part of a larger project to repair damage in the Church. The tomb has been resealed and might not be revealed again for centuries. National Geographic will be airing a documentary about the project.