The opening of the burial place of Christ marks a historic exposure for the first time in centuries, which drew an excited frenzy among archeologists, pilgrims, and various religious groups.
"Here we have Franciscans, Armenians, Greeks, Muslim guards, and Jewish police officers. We hope and we pray that this will be a real message that the impossible can become the possible. We all need peace and mutual respect,” Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, told National Geographic.
According to the Gospels, the body of Christ was laid in a new tomb hewn out of rock, in which no one had ever been buried. The Gospel of Mark details that the women who went to the tomb to anoint Christ's body instead found that he had risen.
Veneration of Christ's burial place dates back to St. Helena in the fourth century, who discovered and identified the tomb. St. Helena’s son, Emperor Constantine, built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 326 and enshrined the tomb.
The shelf on which Christ's body was laid is the central point of veneration, which has been encapsulated by a 3-by-5 foot marble structure, known as the Edicule, since at least 1555. Over the years, the Edicule has been reconstructed and is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar preservation process by the National Technical University of Athens.
"We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule," Professor Antonia Moropoulou, Chief Scientific Supervisor from the National Technical University of Athens, told National Geographic.