Christ's burial slab uncovered for the first time in centuries

Mosaic of entombment of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Credit AntanO CC 40 wikipedia CNA A mosaic of the entombment of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. | AntanO via Wikimedia (CC 4.0).

Have you ever wondered what the tomb of Jesus Christ looks like? National Geographic recently detailed the "moment of revelation" at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which exposed the rock slab on which Christ's body is held to have been placed after his death.

The slab had been covered for centuries by a marble structure to protect it.

"The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back," said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, according to an Oct. 26 exclusive from National Geographic.

"It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid," Hiebert continued.

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.

"The techniques we're using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ."

Although the burial site is not controlled by one particular group, it does share ownership between the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian Orthodox Church, with a smaller influence from the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Churches. Any major decisions regarding the church are made in an agreement among the Churches.

National Geographic will detail the restoration process of Christ's tomb in the Explorer series, airing in November on the National Geographic Channel.

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