Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, thousands of etchings of crucifixes adorn the walls. Archaeologists have long wondered who carved into the walls of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Old City of Jerusalem and erected on the site where Christians believe Christ was crucified.
There are many theories about the origin of the thousands of crosses, although none of them had been verified.
The longest standing explanation was that whenever a pilgrim arrived at the church, he or she would etch a cross into the wall.
Amit Re’em, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) Jerusalem District, told Reuters: “This unique phenomenon always baffled us. Is it graffiti of the pilgrims, or rather, something else?”
However, research from the IAA has revealed a new answer.
Over the past few years, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been the subject of restoration.
This gave archaeologists the opportunity to study the crosses in more detail using 3D imaging.
By doing so, the researchers from the IAA were able to compare the engravings to one another, as well as date them.
To their surprise, they found that all of the crosses had been etched into the walls by just three people.
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He said: “Let’s say that you are an Armenian pilgrim, so you pay something to the priest, you pay something to this special artist and he carved for you, for the benefit of your soul and your relatives’ souls, a special cross in the most sacred place for Christianity on Earth.”
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the burial slab of Christ, a limestone slab where the Messiah was supposedly laid after his death until his subsequent resurrection.
The earliest account of Christ’s burial comes in the Canonical Gospels – the first four books of the New Testament which were written in the decades following his death.
The books describe how Jesus was buried in a rock-cut tomb which was owned by the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea, who was one of Christ’s followers.