D FSTORATION work was bell.. gun on Monday in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, opening the way for healing the dilapidated church and for concord between the various Christian communities for which the site of Christ's Resurrection has been a hone of contention for centuries.
Battered by earthquake and seared by fire, the basilica has been held together by steel girders and struts for more than a generation.
After two years of testing. including examination of foundations and walls, the restoration now begun is in the south transept of the basilica—the site of the Stone of Unction, traditionally believed to be the place where the body of Jesus was embalmed for burial.
The initial phase of restoring the church was agreed to in February, 1958, by representatives of the Christian communities which control the basilica. The agreement was signed after four years of negotiations.
The Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities each paid one third of the preliminary costs of nearly 1113,000.
The agreement also calls for the repair of the south facade of the church—the main entrance. Unlike most of the present church which was rebuilt by the Greek Ortho dos in 1910 following a devastating fire, the façade is wholly the work of the Crusaders.
In the course of recent work on the sacristy. walls from the earlier basilica erected in Constantinian and Byzantine times appeared under the modern plaster.
When the foundations of the facade are restored, the steel buttresses that have shored up the entrance since 1927 can be removed.