[The video featured in the original version of this post is no longer found online. –tp, 2022]
As a follow-up to my previous post, the ongoing restoration of the Edicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has seemingly reached something of a climax: the removal of the marble cover-plate protecting the bedrock burial bench of Jesus’ Tomb. The present Edicule was built in 1810 following a destructive fire; the previous major restoration was carried out in 1555. Thus, it is a historic unveiling.
What the restorers and technicians have documented is an earlier, partially broken marble slab (or two?), presumably from the Crusader period, inscribed with a cross. Beneath that, the surviving bedrock of the original tomb chamber is visible.
Below are two screen-capture images from a Terra Santa News video [no longer available]: The first is an overhead photo by National Geographic (reportedly producing a special to be aired next year) showing the removal of the top-most slab in progress. The second image is of a detailed drawing of what was revealed underneath.The question remains: how much further can or will the researchers go? It seems that full documentation of what remains of the original, rock-hewn tomb structure lies well beyond the scope of this generally conservative restoration of the 1810 structure. Some pertinent questions–ones that will probably never be answered–are: How was the original bedrock tomb configured; what kind of burial niche(s) did it feature, if any (as a “new”, perhaps unfinished, tomb); and how/how much was all that altered in the creation of Constantine’s 4th century church? Related: How much damage was actually done to the exposed rock by over-eager pilgrims over the course of several hundred years, before the walls and superstructure of the shaped bedrock tomb-shrine were demolished in the year 1009?
For more background on these terms and concepts, see my extended article on the history of the church, HERE.
UPDATE / 10 DEC 2016
More good information on the exposure of the rock is found in an article published on-line by National Geographic on 31 OCT.
UPDATE / 25 FEB 2017
The restoration reaches its final stages with the removal of the working scaffolding (but not the 1940s-era iron girder “cage”– still to come, presumably).
UPDATE / MARCH 2017
See my later (and final?) post on the completion of the restoration project and the attendant celebrations. CLICK HERE >>