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Restoration work has begun on Jesus' tomb
Repair and restoration on the site where Jesus Christ is thought to have been buried and resurrected will take around nine months. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
After months of careful research and years of conflict, the restoration of Jesus' tomb within the walls of Jerusalem's Old City officially began last week, as project organizers celebrated a $1.3 million donation to their cause.

"The World Monuments Fund announced on Tuesday that the gift from Mica Ertegun, the widow of Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, would allow work to begin in earnest on the conservation project inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's old city," The Guardian reported.

Over the next nine months, specialists from the National Technical University of Athens will repair the chapel that sits on top of what Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe is Jesus' tomb and enter the tomb itself for the first time in more than two centuries.

"After clearing away layers of soot created by candles and lanterns, the Greek team will stabilize the (chapel) structure with titanium bolts and mortar. The work involves the use of radar, laser scanners and drones, with the conservationists working mainly at night to allow continued access to the shrine to pilgrims," The Guardian reported.

Workers from the National Technical University of Athens have completed restoration projects on other high-profile sites, such as the Acropolis in Athens, but they said the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a special undertaking.

"This is a very challenging environment. Very profound. Yet very exciting," said Antonia Moropoulou, a leader of the Greek team, to The Washington Post.

The site has been in need of their professional attention for years, the Post noted. The chapel on top of the tomb is in danger of collapse and conservationists discovered a crack in the tomb itself.

"The work will finally begin, and it is past time," said the Rev. Peter Vasko, president of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land, to the Post. "The place is falling apart.

Previous efforts to launch a reconstruction project were stalled by infighting among the site's owners.

"Six communities Latin (Roman Catholic), Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopians and Copts share custodianship of the church," The Guardian reported.

Leaders of these churches are now on board with the repair plan and they await news of what the Greek team will discover within the ancient site.

"The work will focus on the Edicule, the ancient chamber housing Jesus' tomb which Christians say stands above the spot where Jesus' body was anointed, wrapped in cloth and buried," BBC News reported. "The last restoration work to take place there was in 1810 after a fire."

The project is expected to cost around $4 million. In addition to Ertegun's donation, the Greek team will be funded by donations from the faith communities that own the site and a donation from King Abdullah of Jordan, The Guardian reported.
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