Jesus's tomb opened for first time in centuries

Jerusalem (AFP) - Preservation experts have opened for the first time in at least two centuries what Christians believe is Jesus's tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Some of the historic work was witnessed by AFP photographer Gali Tibbon who captured images of the site believed to contain the rock upon which Jesus was laid in around 33 AD as it was uncovered as part of ongoing restoration at the site.

A marble slab covering the site, among the holiest in Christianity, was pulled back for three days as part of both restoration work and archaeological analysis, experts on the scene told AFP.

It was the first time the marble had been removed since at least 1810, when the last restoration work took place following a fire, and possibly earlier, said Father Samuel Aghoyan, the church's Armenian superior.

A painting of Jesus can be seen in the narrow area above where the marble slab was removed.

Debris and material was found beneath the marble and was being further studied, Aghoyan said.

"It is moving in a sense, something we've been talking about so many centuries," Aghoyan told AFP.

National Geographic has been documenting the restoration work which is being carried out by a team of Greek specialists.

It reported that "the exposure of the burial bed is giving researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the original surface of what is considered the most sacred site in Christianity".

"My knees are shaking a little bit," Fred Hiebert, an archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, said in a video on the magazine's website during the work at the shrine.

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