The Nativity Church in Bethlehem is a major destination on any Christian Holy Land tour to Israel. Technically it is located on Palestinian Authority Territory, about fifteen minutes from Jerusalem.
The tourists are brought to a check point from where they are assisted by Palestinians tour guides on their visit of the church. At the end of the visit they are brought back to the same point for the return to Jerusalem.
Church of the nativity on Manger Square Bethlehem
History of the Church of the Nativity
This Church marks the traditional place Jesus Birth and is also one of the oldest surviving Christian Churches. The Birth of Jesus as narrated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke took place in a manger here. The square where the Church is located is called Manger Square.
Mary and Joseph, originals of Nazareth, were in town for a special census decreed by Herod. There was no room at the inn or no space in the room and she had to “Lay Him” in a manger. Some say he was born in a cave. This makes sense because at that time many houses were built as a continuation of a cave in the mountains.
The Inside of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem
The Original Church was built
In 326 AD, Constantine and his mother St Helena commissioned the building of a church over the cave where the tradition said Jesus was born. The first church finished in 339 AD was in the form of an octagon built on top of the cave. In the center a big hole surrounded by a railing showed the actual cave.
The church built by Constantine and his mother was destroyed by Justinian in 530 Ad, who later build a much larger one that remains until today. It survived the invasion of the Persians in 614 AD. During the Muslim Period it was also saved from destruction, because they have been using it as a site of prayers.
The Crusaders took Jerusalem in June 1009 and help redecorate the interiors keeping ancient inscriptions by the Greek, that still seen there today. During the Mamluks and Ottoman periods the church was neglected but never destroyed. Some marbles of the church were looted by the Ottomans and you may find them on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. An earthquake in 1834 and a fire in 1869 destroyed some of the furnishings of the cave, but the Nativity Church survived.
The Door of Humility is a small rectangular door that serves as entrance to the church. You actually have to bend down to enter. Legend says that it was created to avoid the entrance of visitors with carts and horses to the holy place.
Pilgrims praying on the Church of the Nativity
Attractions of the Nativity Church
The Star inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Main Nativity Church Altar
In other times I used to come to Bethlehem with my Christian Groups, we had lunch and bought souvenirs in their stores. Nowadays things have changed and the visit to the Nativity Church is done only with Palestinian guides.
images for nativity church
courtesy of wikimedia commons
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