The aedicule of the Holy Sepulchre has been caged for over half a century to keep it stable. (photogallery 1/6)
Earthquakes, condensation produced by visitors's breath, smoke... are the main causes of the deterioration of the structure.
In the heart of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the restoration of the aedicule which surrounds the empty tomb of the Risen Christ will start in a few weeks. The news had been circulating for some time amongst the Christians of Jerusalem and is now also officially confirmed by the Custody of the Holy Land.
(g.s.) – In the heart of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the restoration of the aedicule which encloses the empty tomb of the Risen Christ will start in a few weeks. The news had been circulating for some time amongst the Christians of Jerusalem and especially in Greek Orthodox circles. It is now also officially confirmed by the Custody of the Holy Land.
Over the past few months, in great secrecy, the heads of the Churches of the Holy Land who look after the Basilica of the Resurrection (or of the Holy Sepulchre) have commissioned detailed studies on the possibility of restoring the small temple that encloses the tomb which for a few dozen hours contained the crucified body of Jesus of Nazareth. The current structure was built in 1809-1810 and is now in a state of advanced deterioration.
The work and recent consultations gave rise to a conference held in Athens in early March, attended by some ministers of the Greek government, the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Athens Hieronymos II, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and the Armenian patriarch, Nourhan Manougian.
At the meeting, the experts highlighted the structural defects of the building and pointed out the factors that contribute to its fragility, starting with the impressive number of the faithful, pilgrims and tourists.
Other crucial factors are the alteration of the mortar (caused by the damp from the condensation of visitors’ breath), the heat produced by the candles as they burn and the earthquakes that have occurred over the past two centuries.
Now, thanks to an agreement between Greek Orthodox, Latin Catholics (represented by the Custody of the Holy Land) and Armenians, restoration work which has been necessary for a long time, can be started. The site will open after the Orthodox Easter festivities and should remain open for at least eight months until early 2017. The Holy Place will still be accessible for worship and devotion by the faithful.
The agreement reached by the Churches is to proceed with preservation and restoration. The edicule has to be taken apart to be rebuilt in exactly the same way. Only the excessively fragile or damaged pars will be replaced. The marble slabs, in a good state of preservation, will be cleaned and the structure supporting them will be reinforced.
The work will be funded by the three main Christian confessions responsible for the Holy Sepulchre. Public funding from the Greek government and private benefactors will also be contributed. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has also expressed its interest.
For the needs of the people in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, Israel will give to the Palestinian National Authority more than 30 millions cubic meters of water every year.
An interview with the Minister-General of the Friars Minor, who has just returned from a visit to the Franciscan communities in Lebanon and Syria. Fr. Michael A. Perry tells us what he saw and then also reported to Pope Francis.
After nine months of meticulous work, the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher has reached its final stages. The scaffoldings that were mounted around the edicule, have already been removed.
The Iraqi capital, completely overwhelmed by war and terrorism, is now fragmented by many walls that surround neighbourhoods, churches and public buildings… Barriers of defence which now become large canvases.