The Burial Site Of Jesus Christ May Be About To Collapse


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Worshippers surround the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during Easter. Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

The supposed tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem is at risk of a “catastrophic” collapse, according to an exclusive report from National Geographic. The news comes as a landmark excavation and restoration initiative has all-but-concluded at the revered site, with researchers calling for another, emergency project to start as soon as possible.

The scientific team that led the work investigating Jesus’ likely resting place, the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), have said that without additional structural support, the entire shrine could fall in on itself.


“When it fails, the failure will not be a slow process, but catastrophic,” Antonia Moropoulou, the project’s chief scientific supervisor, told National Geographic.

The weakness of the shrine has been long acknowledged. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the building that surrounds the shrine, has been there since the 4th century, but the shrine itself – the Edicule – which contains the stone slabs on which Christ’s body was placed, was first installed as early as the year 30, and it’s been slowly disintegrating ever since.

Over the last 2,000 years, multiple empires and armies have invaded the region, and several of them have almost entirely destroyed the Edicule. An epic fire destroyed much of it once again in the early 19th century.

Each time it’s been rebuilt, it is placed on this unstable foundation of rubble – and today, many of the gigantic pillars keeping the roof of the Edicule up are resting on more than 1.2 meters (4 feet) of debris.


Back in the early 20th century, the governor of what was then British Palestine noticed that the crumbling edifice was in need of some DIY. He ordered that the roof of the Edicule was to be supported by iron girders – an ungainly idea, but one that’s probably stopped the impending implosion of the shrine happening a lot sooner.

The old section of Jerusalem. Kanuman/Shutterstock

Over the last few months, a multidisciplinary team of archaeologists, geophysicists, historians, and religious experts simultaneously patched up the Edicule as they removed and analyzed the stone slabs – some of which had engravings of crucifixes on them – contained within the inner chamber of the tomb.

The breakdown of their findings is ongoing, but the team have already announced that there appear to be hidden layers in the tomb that have never been seen before. The original cave wall is also apparently still standing behind the tomb.


The price tag for such careful archaeological research came to $4 million. In order to engage in a second restorative phase of work, one that would last around 10 months, the team have asked for another $6.5 million. Without it, the collapse of the Edicule is inevitable.

[H/T: National Geographic]


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