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Restoring the Church of the Holy Sepulcher: 'A Joy not a Job'

03-15-2017
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JERUSALEM, Israel – One of the most cherished sites in Jerusalem's Old City is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Many believe it marks the place where Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. CBN News got a rare behind-the-scenes look at a long overdue restoration of the church's interior.

It's called the aedicule – a structure built over what many believe is the burial place of Jesus. After years of neglect, it's getting a face lift.

"The holy rock is preserved; this is the great result of this project," Prof. Antonia Moropoulou, who oversees the renovation, told CBN News.
     
"Of course now we are going with bolts and anchors, titanium anchors, to readjust the marble slabs upon some mortar and concrete," she explained. "That means we are going to ensure the structural integrity through this intervention."    
 
National Geographic first documented the restoration last year for a television special.  
 
When the renovation team removed a marble slab that had been there for more than 200 years, they found a slab from the time of the Crusaders. Underneath that they found a tomb from the first century that many believe was the tomb of Jesus.

While many consider the Church of the Holy Sepulcher the site where Jesus was buried and rose again, others believe the resurrection took place at the Garden Tomb not far away. Whichever site is authentic, the work is preserving the church for years to come.
 
"We had, of course, to open the holy tomb in order to insulate it from the grout and to protect it," Moropoulou explained.
 
"Yes, this number is S-3, E-14; that means S-3, E-14 – this, from this place of the monument," conservator Theodoros Mavridis said.
 
The restoration is like putting a puzzle together. Mavridis explained how they reconstruct the marble slabs surrounding the aedicule.

"We open holes. We put titanium rods between the two pieces, okay. We are putting the adhesive on the surface inside," he continued. "We're just joining the pieces together like this, okay. And then, we have to put the piece vertically so that the weight of the above to give the pressure and the stability to put the pieces together in a perfect position."

For those working on the project, it's not a job but a joy.
 
"What were your feelings when – when the tomb was opened?" CBN News asked.
 
"Great feelings," Moropoulou said. "We were feeling that working on the tomb of Christ, we were not in just a monument … it's the message of resurrection. It's the hope and the prayers of millions of people. I don't know, but you feel when you are there, you are in the most alive place in the world."
 
"For my mother and my grandmother, they feel very proud of me," Mavridis said. "I feel very happy every day to be here and when the project is finished, then I will be more happy than ever in my life."
 
The restoration is expected to be completed by Easter.

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