The Holy Sepulchre: work on conserving the floor has begun

On Monday March 14, in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the ceremony of the start of the project for the conservation and restoration of the floor was held in the presence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, and the Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate Arch. Sevan Gharibian, representing the Patriarch  Nourhan Manougian. This work, continuing the restoration of the Edicule of Christ’s Tomb done between 2016/2017 by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, is overseen by the Custody of the Holy Land in collaboration with Rome’s “La Sapienza” University, “La Venaria” centre for Conservation and Restoration, the Politecnico of Milan, and the firms Manens of Padua and IG Ingegneria of Turin.

In particular, this phase of the  work includes not only the planning and the restoration of the floor of the whole Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, but also any work to make the Edicule secure as well as attention to the wiring, plumbing, mechanical, special and fire prevention systems.

Divided into two parts, the event started in front of the Edicule of the Tomb, with three prayers in three different languages -  Greek, Latin and Armenian – each one led by the different Christian definitions. Afterwards, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch took the floor, who recalled the experience of the previous restoration, saying he was excited to continue the work. "The restoration of the Edicule is a sign of hope for the world. We are profoundly grateful to all the experts who have made all this possible and it is our conviction that this will lead to an excellent restoration of the Rotonda of the Anastasiswhich was begun years ago, and moreover the floor of the Basilica."

"This project in common started two years ago, and everything was ready for the works to actually start,” the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, remembered in his address. "The pandemic slowed down the possibility of going ahead from the project to the execution, but now we are ready  to start. In this historical context, with the pandemic and the war,cooperation on the restoration work takes on a different meaning, because this is the spot where Jesus becomes a cornerstone of the Church.”The Custos then recalled all the collaborators who have made this work possible, thanking them.

Lastly, the archbishop SevanGharibian also thanked all those present, emphasizing his enthusiasm for the union in the restoration.  "I wish all the best to our communities for this project and to the technicians, who will certainly do their best to complete the work as best as possible.”

The representatives of the three communities and of the bodies involved then moved to the  corridor facing the Franciscans’ Sacristy – from where the work will begin – to raise the first stone.

Before raising the stone, Prof. Giorgio Piras, Director of the Department of Studies of Antiquity, took the floor, to thank the communities for the possibility of taking care of this project. He was followed by Dr Sara Abram, Secretary-General of “La Venaria Reale” Centre for Conservation and Restoration,who repeated the Centre’s commitment to this work and then a representative of the Armenian Patriarchate said a prayer for the start of the works.

The last to speak was Prof. Roberto Zecchin from the firm of Manens.

At the end of the institutional part, the three representatives of the Christian confessions together raised the first stone of the floor of the Holy Sepulchre to officially mark the start of the works.