The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
"I am always with you till the end of time"
Perhaps never in its history had the church of the Holy Sepulchre reached the bottom of the humiliation the way it did in the nineteenth century. The remedy was worse than the disease. When on l3th of September 1810 Komninos of Mitylene presented his restored work, one realized that nothing was left or was at least visible of the basilica built in the XIIth century by the Crusader architects. Big pillars had taken the place of the columns, the windows had been closed, plain walls had covered the beautiful ogival arches of the central transept, the shrine on the tomb appeared completely rebuilt in a dubious style. The tombs of Godfrey de Bouillon and of Baldwin I were removed to make way to two steep stairways that led to Calvary. The marble at the Stone of Unction (which carried the Franciscan Coat of Arms) was replaced by a plain one. One entered a place without beauty and without light and air, which with time changed into a dark recess.
The situation became worse after a strong earthquakes in 1867 which shook the central dome which had to be pulled down and replaced with a metal structure. Another earthquake shook Palestine in 1927 and the whole edifice was in danger of collapse. In 1934 the British Authority, administering Palestine since the end of World War I, decided to reinforce the whole building (inside and outside) with iron girdles and wooden structures, as suggested by architect Harvey. This completely disfigured the monument.
In 1949 the Apostolic Delegate of Jerusalem, Mons. Testa, wrote in a richly documented volume, prepared in collaboration with the Custody of the Holy Land, on the need for restoration of this monument:
In 1955 the Custody of the Holy Land, attempted to accelerate the time table and to involve the Christian nations of the world, by inviting to Jerusalem an expert commission made up of seven architects coming from France, Spain, Belgium, United States of America, Britain and Holland. Each architect prepared hi separate report and on August 24 they prepared a common report in which they confirmed the need for the restoration of the faзade, transept and dome. Furthermore they agreed also on some main lines of intervention as architect Forlati of Venice says:
A technical office manned by the three architects of the three communities was set up and restoration work started on 3rd July 1961. On January 4th 1964 Pope Paul VI visited the shrine and he spoke of the restoration project with the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Benedictos:
"it is very symbolic that notwithstanding the weight of history and the numerous difficulties, the Christians, unfortunately separated, work together to restore this temple which they themselves had built in unity and which their divisions had left to decay"
Thus the Church of the Holy Sepulchre became again a sign of hope for a resurrection which finally can unite all the Christians of the world around the Tomb of Christ.
|© 2005 The Orthodox Scientific Educational Society
"Russia in colours" in Jerusalem