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Restoration announced for Christ’s tomb at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre

March 25, 2016

Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic leaders have announced that Christ’s tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem will be restored within the next year.

The current church, which was constructed following a fire, dates from 1810. Architects have warned that structural damage endangers the building. Condensation from pilgrims’ breath has led to “alteration of the mortars,” and the use of candles has “led to a great deal of thermal stress to be placed on the marble,” the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land explained in a statement.

The marble tomb will be dismantled piece by piece, and only the severely damaged pieces will be replaced as the tomb is reconstructed. Pilgrims will be able to visit the church throughout the restoration project. 

The Greek government will help fund the tomb’s restoration, as will the religious denominations that share custody of the church.

Renovations to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have been delayed for years because of disputes among the building's custodians. Under a rule imposed by the Ottoman empire in 1853, known as the Status Quo, the governance of the building is shared by Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic clerics, with other Christian denominations granted access to some parts of the church. Although the Status Quo provides detailed descriptions of the rights of each group, "turf battles" have persisted, occasionally leading to physical violence between monks of the different religious communities. To avoid such conflicts, under the Status Quo the keys to the only door of the basilica are entrusted to a Muslim family in Jerusalem.

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