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Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre
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Researchers date discovery of Christ's tomb in Jerusalem to Roman era
Researches find mortar under slab in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre, date it to late Roman Empire period; dating aligns with historical account of Emperor Constantine, his mother discovering Jesus' tomb under pagan temple to Venus, building Holy Sepulchre atop it.

Mortar under a slab at the heart of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates to the era of Roman Emperor Constantine, confirming historical accounts of the discovery of the place where Christians believe Jesus was entombed, researchers say.

 

 

According to historical accounts, Constantine—the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity—discovered the rocky tomb with assistance from his mother Helena between 325 and 326 AD, buried beneath a temple to the Roman goddess Venus.

  

Possible historical evidence pointing to Jesus being entombed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was discovered recently (Photo: AP)
Possible historical evidence pointing to Jesus being entombed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was discovered recently (Photo: AP)

 

Today it is visited regularly by millions of pilgrims and tended by priests from several Christian denominations under strict rules still in place from the Ottoman era.

 

Virtually razed to the ground in 1009, the Holy Sepulchre complex was rebuilt over the centuries by various Christian groups, including the Byzantines and the Crusaders from the 12th century onwards.

 

But a team of scientists and restorers who completed almost nine months of work on the tomb last March said they were able to determine that a slab at the heart of the compound dated from Constantine's time.

 

The purported tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre's Edicule (Photo: Reuters)
The purported tomb of Jesus in the Holy Sepulchre's Edicule (Photo: Reuters)

 

"That was a great moment to validate," said Professor Antonia Moropoulou, Chief Scientific Supervisor from the National Technical University of Athens who directed the restoration project.

 

The researchers restored a structure inside the church called the Edicule, which is believed to house the tomb itself. Their work included removing a marble slab which covers a ledge where Christ, according to Christian scriptures, was lain after crucifixion and resurrected on the third day.

 

Professor Antonia Moropoulou said the monument spoke of its own history (Photo: Reuters)
Professor Antonia Moropoulou said the monument spoke of its own history (Photo: Reuters)

 

A second fractured slab was found beneath the top slab, attached to the bedrock and engraved with a cross. Analyzing gypsum mortar connecting that slab to the bedrock allowed them to determine its age, dating it to 335-345 AD.

 

"When we opened the tomb and saw this broken grey slab with an engraved cross we didn't know from which era it was," Moropoulou said. "We concluded, according to concrete results, that the slab adjoined to the bedrock of the tomb of Christ was of the Constantinean era."

 

Moropoulou said she herself had half expected to find that the slab, like the church around it, dated from a later era.

 

She felt "great. Very happy indeed. I did not expect it...but the monument talks, and it says its history."

 

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