NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A newly restored shrine at one of Christianity’s holiest sites reopened Wednesday morning in Jerusalem.
As CBS’ Jonathan Vigliotti reports, a pinhole of light illuminated the newly refurbished shrine, protecting what Christians believe to be the entrance to the cave where Jesus was buried. The restored holy site reopened to the public, just in time for Easter, in a small ceremony attended by religious leaders.
The ornate building, called the Edicule, sits in the center of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the world’s oldest churches located in Jerusalem’s old city.
Millions of pilgrims visit the site each year, and all that foot traffic, along with time, took its toll, with parts coming loose and warnings that it was structurally unsound.
The more than $3.5 million restoration began in the fall. It was the first attempt at refurbishing the site in two centuries.
One of the most dramatic moments came when the cave itself was reveled for the first time in 700 years. Historians found what is believed to be the bench where Jesus’ body lay.
“It was really important to see the bench very flat and almost complete from the right to the left, almost for the shape that one man can stay on it,” Father Eugenio Alaita, a professor of Christian archaeology, said.
The entrance to the bench has been resealed with marble, but a small window has been added so visitors can see a section of the cave’s original wall for themselves.
The World Monument Fund, a nonprofit in New York, helped raise the funds for the project. The pain-staking work isn’t over yet. Now, money is being raised for another round of restorations to fix modern drainage and sewage pipes built around the tomb.
Centuries of candle smoke and visiting pilgrims had left the shrine discolored and almost black. Restoring it took months of tedious and delicate work.