WASHINGTON (FOX5NY) - Many faithful consider it one of the holiest places on earth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Inside the ancient landmark, a sacred shrine has been built above what Christians believe to be the actual tomb of Jesus Christ.
National Geographic Museum Director Kathryn Keane and archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert took me on an exclusive tour of the new Tomb of Christ exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.
National Geographic is known for transporting people to unique locations all over the world. This exhibit is no different, except it uses virtual reality.
To feel like you're actually in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you put on 3D glasses to begin the virtual journey to Jerusalem.
The idea for this exhibit came after a team of conservators invited National Geographic to document their restoration project. The shrine built over the burial place of Jesus Christ was badly in need of repair.
"The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 325 A.D. by Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire—the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire," Hiebert said. "It's like a giant church—sort of a mall of a church, it's got many different shrines with inside of it but the main one is the shrine to the tomb of Jesus. It's very, very important for Christianity."
This exhibit in D.C. was created from data collected in Jerusalem. The Nat Geo team took precise 3D scans of the buildings in the Holy Land.
"This data is almost like a 3D photograph of the site," museum director Kathryn Keane said. "It's accurate to the millimeter. It's really valuable for science but it also makes for an incredibly accurate, immersive experience."
An experience I tried out. I had the actual feeling of being in a very tight space—like I was inside the real tomb and looking the marble slab where Christians believe Christ's body was laid after he was taken down from the cross.
"You can actually see the walls of the cave where Jesus was originally buried," said Hiebert, who was on site during the restoration in Jerusalem.
"It was absolutely astonishing at the end of 2017 when the analysis came in that actually that marble cladding that covered the original surface where Jesus had been laid had never been opened since 325 A.D.," he said. "All scientists have a sense of faith in them. From Isaac Newton to Galileo to Albert Einstein—all great scientists are men and women of faith."
"The stories that emerged out of Jerusalem are the stories we're still telling today—2,000 years later," Keane said.