Experts have begun renovating the ancient stone tomb of Jesus at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time in more than 200 years. Tradition says that the chamber, known as the Edicule, marks the very place where Jesus was buried after the crucifixion and rose from the dead.
The church, considered the holiest place in Christianity, was built in 325 AD. It has been a place of pilgrimage since then and thousands continue to visit the cavernous shrine each day.
The ornate Edicule is in an urgent state of disrepair: It is damaged from smoke emitted by the hanging oil lamps and giant candlesticks and warped from water seepage and humidity.
However, the renovations have faced obstacles because of disputes between the three rival denominations that control the site: the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox. They are extremely jealous of their territory, and at times brawls have broken out between clergy.
But when the Israel Antiquities Authority deemed the site unsafe, the Churches decided to bury their differences and go ahead with the repairs that will take eight to 12 months to complete. The three denominations are donating funds for the $3.3 million renovation which is being done in the name of Christian unity.