Israel. Jerusalem. The Tomb of Christ at The Holy Sepulchre. Aedicula. Old city. (Photo by: PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Israel. Jerusalem. The Tomb of Christ at The Holy Sepulchre. Aedicula. Old city. (Photo by: PHAS/Universal Images Gro
Thanks to Tom Hanks, Dan Brown, and The Da Vinci Code, the study of religious texts and sects is more popular than ever. While its depiction of life as a Harvard professor of art history and symbology is completely dramatized, and one of those things isn't even a thing, the movie sparked renewed interest in religious relics, the most important of which must surely be Jesus's tomb.
In 2016, archaeologists opened what is believed to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ in what is known today as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. No human had seen the famous figure's remains since church officials encased the tomb in layers of marble in 1555, so it was a fairly big deal. The reaction of the resident archaeologist, Fredrick Hiebert, likely speaks for us all: "I'm absolutely amazed," he said. "My knees are shaking a little bit because I wasn't expecting this."
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (cbn.com)
A Limited Examination
For 60 hours, researchers were allowed access to the sainted tomb before the church resealed it, likely for decades. "We saw where Jesus Christ was laid down," Father Isidoros Fakitsas, the superior of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, told the The New York Times of the awe-inspiring experience. "Before, nobody has. Or at least nobody alive today. We have the history, the tradition. Now we saw with our own eyes the actual burial place of Jesus Christ."
The Tomb of Christ (cruxnow.com)
Why Open It Now?
In those 60 hours, researchers photographed, collected samples, and strengthened the tomb. Hopefully, the work will allow the public a glimpse of the holy tomb and preserve it so future generations may gaze upon it as well. The opening coincided with an elaborate renovation of what is one of the holiest sites in the world.
Obviously, researchers are working furiously to learn more about one of the most famous events in world history. It was an event that birthed one of the world's main religions, after all. Visitors have journeyed to the tomb for decades, as many as 5,000 per day. To see the tomb, patrons followed the narrow path through Jerusalem's Old City, where the Son of God was said to have borne the cross on which he was crucified.
A picture taken on March 21, 2017 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem shows the renovated Edicule of the Tomb of Jesus. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
A Miracle, It Remains
Despite the fact that the tomb is considered one of the most sacred artifacts within their care, it's amazing it still exists. Over the past centuries, the church was raided multiple times, often violently. That is why researchers were only allowed a scant 60 hours to examine the tomb, in hopes of keeping it in as pristine condition as possible. The renovation only occurred after the Israelis pressured the three religions who share the church: Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Roman Catholics.
A conservator cleans the surface of the Edicule, the traditional site of Jesus' burial and resurrection, in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Credit: Oded Balilty/ National Geographic via CNS.)(cruxnow.com)
Untouched For Centuries
The National Technical University of Athens, who also restored the Acropolis in Athens and the Hagia Sophia mosque, conducted the renovation. During their difficult work, the National Geographic Society documented the restoration. A documentary following their work aired on the National Geographic channel later that spring.
Researchers think that the tomb may have sat untouched for hundreds of years. "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," Hiebert marveled. It's not that amazing when you think about it, of course. The man could turn water into wine; you'd think he could keep his tomb from slipping.