JERUSALEM — A research team partnered with the National Geographic Society reached the original limestone burial bed of Jesus Oct. 28. The event came hours before resealing the tomb many believe to have contained his body.
The inspection by a team from the National Technical University of Athens breached a marble cladding over the bed two nights earlier. Underneath, a fill layer covered a marble slab with a cross carved into its surface. Therefore, since 1555 the cladding had served as a protective barrier from the limestone shelf underneath. This prevented religious pilgrims from chipping away bits of the bed as souvenirs.
An 18th century Edicule consisting of two chambers encloses the tomb. One chamber holds The Angel's Stone, believed to be a fragment of the stone used to seal the tomb. The other contains the tomb itself.
The Edicule resides in the Rotunda, a large circular hall. The Rotunda lies inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most holy sites in the world.
Antonia Moropoulou, Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor, directs the conservation and restoration of the Edicule. "This is the Holy Rock that has been revered for centuries, but only now can be actually seen," he said.
While 100 percent certainty can't be claimed on this being the burial place of Christ, scientists express a high probability. The gospels say Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, placed Jesus' body into a limestone cave with a shelf for the body hewn into the wall. Such tombs exist in the thousands around Jerusalem. One in particular, The Garden Tomb, is visited regularly by tourists and Christians visiting the Holy Land.
Approximately 300 years after Jesus' crucifixion officials of the Roman Emperor Constantine arrived looking for the tomb. Consequently, locals pointed them in the direction of a temple built two centuries earlier by another Roman emperor, Hadrian. The temple, sources note, served as a sign of Roman dominance with its location over a site revered by Christians.
Representing Rome's first emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine's representatives ordered Hadrain's temple destroyed. In turn, they built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianity's holiest site.
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