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.
This latest development is featured in a short video released by the Friancscans this past Friday, November 4th (click on the link below). 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 the Terra Santa News video: 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.
To view the 5-minute video, click on the following link:
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). Here’s a 4-min. VIDEO from the Franciscans of the latest developments.