ASIA/HOLY LAND - The experts alarm: the Holy Sepulcher at risk of collapsing

Friday, 24 March 2017 holy places   middle east   oriental churches

Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The Holy Sepulcher risks collapsing if nothing is done to shore up its unstable foundations. The alarm was launched by the same team of archaeologists and experts who have just successfully completed the restoration of the Edicule (a small structure within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, encloses the remains of a cave that has been venerated since at least the fourth century A.D. as the tomb of Jesus Christ). The entire complex of the Holy Sepulcher – declared Greek archaeologist Antonia Moropoulou, professor at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and chief scientific supervisor of the restoration project, to National Geographic - could be threatened by "a significant structural failure". And if this were to happen - added the Greek archaeologist "the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic".
Restoration of the Edicule reveals that much of the 19th-century shrine and its surrounding rotunda, which host millions of annual visitors, appear to be built largely on an unstable foundation of crumbled remnants of earlier structures and is honeycombed with extensive tunnels and channels
The shrine built by Constantine around the tomb was partly destroyed by Persian invaders in the seventh century A.D. and destroyed again by the Fatimids in 1009. The church was rebuilt in the mid-11th century. The Edicule was later altered by the Crusaders and restored again in the 16th and early 19th centuries. Its current form encloses several earlier construction phases.
Several of the 22-ton pillars that hold up the dome of the rotunda rest on more than four feet of unconsolidated rubble.
The restoration just completed around the Edicule, and celebrated on Wednesday, March 22 during an ecumenical ceremony, which also saw the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I - registered the cooperation of the three major Christian groups that maintain primary control over the site—the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Patriarchates of Jerusalem and the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land.
To address the risk of structural collapse at Christianity's holiest site, the NTUA now proposes a six-million-euro project to be allocated for the necessary work. On Saturday, March 18, a statement released by the Custody of the Holy Land reported that "the Holy See has allocated a corresponding amount of 500 thousand dollars as a contribution to the new phase of consolidation and restoration work at the Holy Sepulcher. This contribution "will be dispensed after the communities named in the Status Quo have by common agreement constituted an appropriate Committee". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 24/03/2017)