The ancient tomb believed to be the burial place of Jesus Christ is being restored by archaeologists. The renovation in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the first for two centuries and will reinforce and conserve the structure.
Delays to the work was caused by rivalries between the different religious groups which run the church. However, leaders from the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches have set aside their disputes and are now working together so that repairs can begin.
The focus of the work will be on the Edicule, the centuries-old room which Christians say was the tomb of Jesus and where his body was anointed with oils, swaddled in cloth and buried.
The holy site was "on the verge of collapse" according to AFP. "One of the serious issues in the church is that the status quo takes place over every other consideration, and it's not a good thing," Franciscan friar Rev. Athanasius Macora told The New York Times. "Unity is more important than a turf war."
"We equally decided the required renovation was necessary to be done, so we agreed upon it," said Samuel Aghoyan, Armenian church official in a BBC report.
Antonia Moropoulou, the scientific co-ordinator for the repairs, said the tomb was stable but needed repairs after decades of exposure to candle smoke, water and humidity. The building also needed to be safeguarded against the risk of damage by earthquakes. Each religious denomination is contributing funds for the $3.3m (£2.3m) project. King Abdullah of Jordan has also made a personal donation.
Work will be carried out over the next 12 months although pilgrims will still be able to visit the site, according to church officials.