7 Jun 2016

Jesus' tomb getting a fixup

12:06 pm on 7 June 2016

Restorations have begun on the ancient tomb in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried - the most extensive works in more than two hundred years.

Restorations have begun on the ancient tomb in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried - the most extensive works in more than two hundred years.

A worker welds scaffolding at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City Photo: AFP

The renovations inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have been delayed because of longstanding religious rivalries among the three denominations that oversee the church.

Restorations have finally begun on the ancient tomb in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried.

Tourists line up to enter the Tomb of Jesus. Photo: AFP

But clerics from the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian churches have put aside their differences, recognising the need to begin repairs.

The separate churches are responsible for running different parts of the church but share responsibility for the shrine.

The work will focus on the Edicule, the ancient chamber housing Jesus's tomb which Christians say stands above the spot where Jesus's body was anointed, wrapped in cloth and buried.

The last restoration work to take place there was in 1810 after a fire.

'Equally decided'

Relations between them can be tense - in 2008, an argument between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks escalated into a brawl - but they have decided to act jointly after Israel's antiquities authority last year said the church was unsafe and Israeli police briefly closed it.

The top Armenian church official at the site, Samuel Aghoyan, said: "We equally decided the required renovation was necessary to be done, so we agreed upon it."

Restorations have begun on the ancient tomb in Jerusalem where Christians believe Jesus was buried - the most extensive works in more than two hundred years.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III leads the Orthodox Easter Sunday mass this year. Photo: AFP

The scientific coordinator for the repairs, Antonia Moropoulou, said the tomb was stable but warped and needed attention after many years of exposure to water, humidity and candle smoke.

The structure also needed to be protected from the risk of earthquake damage, she said.

Work is expected to take eight to 12 months, and during that time pilgrims will be able to continue visiting the site, church officials said.

Each denomination is contributing funds for the $US3.3m project. In addition, King Abdullah of Jordan has made a personal donation.

Jordan controlled Jerusalem's Old City, where the church is located, until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and it continues to play a role in safeguarding Muslim and Christian holy sites there.

-BBC