JERUSALEM (ChurchMilitant.com) - The stone slab on which Christ was placed after His Crucifixion is uncovered for the first time in nearly 500 years.
National Geographic is reporting that scientists are restoring the site and have removed the marble covering the original stone slab on which Christ was laid after He died on the Cross in 33 A.D.
Professor Antonia Moropoulou, chief scientific supervisor, commented, "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."
The slab is housed in a small structure, called the Edicule, located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The church, also called the Church of the Anastasis (Greek for "resurrection"), is shared between Roman Catholics, Greek and Armenian Orthodox.
Early Church writers document pilgrimages to the Sepulchre from the third century. Historians, however, note that the earliest Christians — especially if they were converts from Judaism — would have visited the tomb from the time of Christ's Resurrection. In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine had a basilica built on the site, cementing it as the location of the Crucifixion and internment of Christ.
At the time the site was outside the walls of Jerusalem because, according to Jewish tradition, people could not be buried in the Holy City. When the Romans razed the city in 70 A.D., Jews were forbidden from living in the remains of the city, but Christians were not. In the fourth century, Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea noted that the pagan Romans knew the site was holy and built a temple to the pagan goddess Venus in order to defile it.
This sacred cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought to remove entirely from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus they should be able effectually to obscure the truth. Accordingly they brought a quantity of earth from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their purpose had been effectually accomplished, they prepare on this foundation a truly dreadful sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that their object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying the sacred cave beneath these foul pollutions.
Americans who don't have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land can visit a replica of the holy sites at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C. For the last 800 years, the Franciscans have been caretakers and custodians of many sites in the Holy Land.
The study of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the latest scientific studies of holy relics. During World War II, Pope Pius XII commissioned a secret study of the tomb of St. Peter under the Basilica of St. Peter, finding the original burial place and actual bones of the Apostle.
A study of the Shroud of Turin beginning in 1978 revealed that "the Shroud image is that of a real human form of a scourged, crucified man. It is not the product of an artist. The blood stains are composed of hemoglobin and also give a positive test for serum albumin."
The Sudarium of Oviedo, traditionally venerated as the cloth wrapped around Our Lord's head, has resided in Spain since the seventh century. It too has been studied and shown to match the image and blood type revealed on the Shroud of Turin.
National Geographic will feature video of the restoration in November.