A landmark moment: Jesus’s tomb opens for the first time since the 1500s

A restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre reveals new insight into the centuries-old tomb, thought to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ.

Clergymen hold candles during the Holy Thursday Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Gali Tibbon | AFP | Getty Images

The Holy Land is a sightseer’s dream. There’s so much beauty, history, and faith to witness and experience. One of the almost innumerable sites that has attracted generations of pilgrims and tourists to the region is what’s believed to be Christ’s tomb—despite the fact that it’s been sealed up pretty tightly since at least 1555. Now the public can see Jesus’s exposed tomb for the first time in hundreds of years. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem is ready for visitors to start flocking in and behold this splendid sight.

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A team of archeologists from the National Technical University of Athens—the renowned university that was in charge of restoring the Athenian Acropolis and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul—has removed the stone slabs covering the tomb to discover a lot of rubble. But hopefully, after several months, the team will reach their goal.

“It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid,” said Fredrik Hiebert, the archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, who’s partnering on the restoration project.

“We are at the critical moment for rehabilitating the Edicule,” said Antonia Moropoulou who is supervising the restoration on behalf of the National Technical University of Athens. “The techniques we’re using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ.”

This time of year, you’re more likely to have Thanksgiving or Christmas on your mind than Easter, but taking this opportunity to look at Christ’s burial place now is a solemn reminder of his crucifixion and resurrection, as well as a beautiful piece of history. It’s a spot where many come to pray, and reflect on larger ideals of sacrifice, love, and God.

National Geographic will be documenting the restoration project for its Explorer series to air in November. You might not be able to visit Jerusalem this fall, but you can tune in on TV.

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