The restoration of the Holy Sepulchre

Giovanni Caccialanza17 March 2022

On Monday the 14th it was held the inauguration ceremony for the restoration works of the pavement of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. Full support was given by the three Christian Communities of the Holy Land: the Greek Orthodox, the Catholic and the Armenian one. In fact, some of the highest officials of all three religious denominations were present at the event: Theophilus III, Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Father Francesco Patton OFM, Custos of the Holy Land and Sevan Gharibian, Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate, representing the Patriarch Nourham Manougian.

The restoration of the Holy Sepulchre

The restorations concern the whole pavement of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and they are managed in full spirit of communion by the three different Christian communities. The operations are coordianted by the Common Technical Bureau, which is an office of experts who embody this collectiveness. As a matter of fact, it includes Greek Orthodox technicians led by Theodosios Mitropoulos, Catholics represented by Osama Hamdan and Armenians appointed by Ibrahim Younan.

The Custody of the Holy Land, by mutual agreement, is managing the activities; the Franciscan institution addressed to the La Sapienza University of Rome for the excavations and to the Centre of Conservation and Restoration “La Venaria Reale” for the processing of the pavement stones. Also the Politecnico of Milan, the Geotechnical Engineering of Turin and the Manens-TIFS company are involved for the creation of the works and for the statistical and safety studies. This kind of in-depth analysis is also necessary in light of the seismicity of the area, which requires special attention during the implementation of the work.

The inauguration ceremony

The inauguration ceremony took place in a prayer atmosphere, aimed at the gratitude for the prospects that this new work commitment is creating. Most of all, in such a difficult time as the present.

The opening greetings jointly addressed by the three priests to the assembly, highlighted well the value of cooperation and unity of the Churches in initiating this work, which was ready to start as early as 2019 and then stalled because of the pandemic. Father Francesco Patton, in particular, drew the attention to the importance of the Church as a living body, whose each member is fundamental.

We also listened to words of hope for Ukraine by the Patriarch, the Custos and the Grand Sacristan. The collaboration virtuously led to the starting of the restoration, an original news; like this, we hope for a renewed collective engagement in Europe, towards a renewed peace.

After the initial greetings, the three representatives proceeded next to the Chapel of the Apparition, which is the Catholic area of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here, they gathered around the first stone of the works, that will begin precisely in this spot. The local labour will largely contribute to the realization.

After the customary greetings from the institutions and the companies involved in the works, the Grand Sacristan led a brief moment of prayers for the good continuation of the works and for the health of all those who will join the workers. The three leaders of the Christian communities of the Holy Land then proceeded to lift up the first stone. This is, symbolically, the official starting day of the restoration works at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The restoration of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This is how it will be carried out

The pavement will be lifted up little by little, area after area, so that the works would not interfere with the pilgrims and the religious services. The stones, up-lifted from the pavement, will be moved to the firs floor of the Church, in a gallery located above the Chapel of the Apparition. Here it is where a laboratory for the processing and the restoration was prepared.

The slabs will be uplifted with great caution at the statics of the structure. The company Ingegneria Geotecnica of Turin has in fact proceeded to carry out stability studies for the Chapel of the Anastasis, located at the center of the Rotunda of the Basilica.

Step by step, the pavement will be then reassembled.