Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity is a significant religious site located in Bethlehem. It’s considered one of the oldest surviving Christian churches, traditionally believed to be built over the birthplace of Jesus.
The church’s construction is traditionally attributed to Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. She traveled to the Holy Land in the early 4th century and ordered the construction of several Christian sites, including what would become the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church was expanded in the 6th century by Emperor Justinian and restored in the time of the Crusaders.
Exploring the Church
The entry into the church is through a small and low doorway, aptly called ‘Door of Humility’. Its original purpose was to prevent Ottoman horseman from entering the holy site. Inside, deemed light softly illuminates so the church’s main hall. Some of its columns are decorated with crusaders-era frescoes of saints. The focal point of the church is the Grotto of the Nativity, a crypt marking the spot of Jesus’ birth, next to a manger.
Touring the Church of Nativity
Bethlehem is under Palestinian control since 1996 and reaching it from Jerusalem requires presetting a guide and a driver. The church is open every day of the week except Sunday morning. The maintenance and liturgical schedule of each order is zealously following the ‘status quo’ document. This protocol was established by the Ottomans in 1852, after the silver star over Jesus’ birth spot was stolen in 1847.