Church of the Nativity

Church of the Nativity (Basilica of the Nativity) – the first Christian Temple in the Holy Land at the birthplace of the Lord Son Jesus. One of the most important relics of Christianity, along with the temples above Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher, Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane and Nazareth.

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Church of the Nativity – An old new miracle.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (Palestine) met the 21st century in not the best condition. Full restoration in it has not been carried out for 500 years. Some roof beams remembered Emperor Justinian and were clearly tired of a long life. During rains, dirty water seeped through the cracks in the roof, threatening priceless paintings and mosaics.

Basilica of the Nativity resembled a child of seven nannies. Three clergy who care for him – Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic. They could not work out any general plan for the salvation of both the Temple and the parishioners. A dilapidated roof could collapse on their heads! In addition, it was clear that necessary renovation would take several years and millions of dollars.

Renovation works.

In 2011the case moved forward. The Palestinian authorities announced the start of restoration work, which began only in 2013. Already after UNESCO included the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the list of World Heritage sites under threat.

Donations to save the temple were being collected all over the world. A team of professional and inspired people who understand the great importance of their work. They claim that the activities in the temple are very impressive: “After all, we touch the heavens.” First of all, they took up the roof, and then the interior decoration.

Thanks to their efforts, in the summer of 2016 an Angel appeared in the temple.

Yes, the thermal imager “smelled it ” a compound of dissimilar materials under a layer of plaster between the window openings. And after clearing from the dust, a fresh young face from pearl, with a golden mosaic halo, peered out.

The ruffled captive looked so fresh and bright that it became clear that other mosaics should look like clouded by dust and soot, dark with moisture.

People can also work miracles. Especially feeling close to Lord.

After all, there is a man-made miracle in little Bethlehem – the Church of the Nativity of Christ, liturgies in which have been going on without interruption for 17 centuries.

Note to the pilgrim:

  • Photography and video shooting is not allowed everywhere, it is better to ask the Temple attendants or the guide in advance. Is it possible to photograph what you want?
  • Too bright, open, screaming clothes are unacceptable.
Fourteen-point silver star in Grotto of Nativity

A city where Christmas is always.

Bethlehem is still small city. Provincial and also strangled by the Arab-Israeli conflict. City lives at the expense of tourists and pilgrims. Who seek to get there not only during the Christmas holidays, but just to see the famous Basilica with their own eyes.

The main subject of trade here is christian souvenirs. A cafe or a shop may have a name like “Gifts of the Magi”. Everywhere you are greeted by different-sized Stars of Bethlehem and a variety of miniature natters. So it seems that Christmas continues here all year round!

At the time of the birth of the Messiah, it was a small settlement where folk lived a simple village life. Bethlehem names both Aramaic and Arabic, testify to the peasant labor of the local inhabitants. The first tells of growing bread, the second of raising livestock.

Population census.

According to the ancient prophecies in this village the Jesus Christ Son of God was born. This happened thanks to the pagan, the Roman emperor Octavius Augustus. Which, like his administrator in Palestine, Quirinius, had never heard of some old-time fanatic tramps. So he probably would have apprehended the Jewish prophets if he had seen even one.

But even Octavian himself put a monument in Bethlehem. Do not be the census that he started in the entire Roman Empire, it would be more convenient to collect taxes from the provinces. The carpenter Joseph would not have come to Bethlehem with his pregnant wife. For the convenience of Roman officials, all residents of Palestine were ordered to appear in the cities from which they led their kind. So Joseph from the family of David gathered on the road.

Due to the influx of other “census participants” Saint Mary did not even have enough room in the hotel. The Star of Bethlehem led the Magi here to the underground stable. Having illuminated the semi-village settlement forever and for the whole world.

Under the highest patronage.

Grotto of the Nativity – the underground stable where Jesus was born – was found during archaeological excavations by the 60-year-old Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, around 330 AD. She ordered to build a temple on the newly-found holy site!!! Personally “honored the burden of the Virgin”, choosing a precious decoration.

Then her emperor son arrived to bow to the shrine. He also presented to the Church of the Nativity in Palestine gold and silver utensils and luxurious curtains.

In 529 the Church was badly damaged during the Samaritan uprising. The Samaritans rebelling against the rule of Byzantium, burned Christian churches throughout Palestine.

A thunderstorm passed overhead, the Church of the Nativity turned into ruins literally. Having closed with itself the main, underground shrine – Grotto.

Saint Sabbas the Sanctified went to Emperor Justinian with a petition for the restoration of the most important Christian church.

Justinian did not just restore what was before. He erected on the site of the ruins the Basilica of the Nativity of Christ, which we see today.

The murals that adorned the new version of the temple saved it from destruction by the Persians in the 7th century. Khosrow II neglected the religion of others. In a letter to the Byzantine ruler, he called Christ the “vain hope” of Byzantium – “Jesus could not save himself from the Jews.”

Salvation by the Magi.

Nevertheless, the people of Khosrow did not begin to desecrate the place where the “vain hope” was born. Because they saw images of the Magi on the frescoes! Those were wearing trousers and Phrygian hats. The Persians recognized their compatriots and did not raise a hand against them!

At the time of the Crusaders, both Boulogne Baldwin and Baldwin de Burg were crowned on the throne of Jerusalem. Pilgrims fell into the Church of Nativity. Ghostly images of the Virgin Mary, Christ and saints made during the years of the Kingdom of Jerusalem are still visible on its pink columns.

In 1479, the English monarch Edward IV presented a lead coating on the roof the basilica.

Russian Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II donated bells and chandeliers to the Church.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem attracted the attention of royalty from Constantine the Great, not only because the rulers ardently believed in Jesus. The obvious motive for their interest to the Basilica of course, was the strengthening of their own earthly power. Therefore, they were drawn to the true birthplace of the Son of Man. Each of them wanted to convince himself and his subjects. “My power is from God,” “God is with me.” True, it is not known whether they often recalled that Jesus Christ was born not under a brocade curtain and a golden chandelier, but on a hay in a stable.

Church of the Nativity – House of Three Churches.

The entrance to the Basilica of the Nativity is so small that it resembles a hole.

There used to be high gates, the so-called Crusader Door. And now on the wall you can see its shape. And the low passage, which cannot be reached without bowing, nicknamed the Door of Humility. It is not a design decision, but a necessity.

During the capture of Palestine by the Ottoman Empire, the high Crusader Door was closed for defensive purposes. So that the invaders could not physically enter the sanctuary on a wagon or on horseback.

Let the incoming bow his head, no matter who he is – even if he is in the crown.

Inside, the entire temple is divided between three parishes: Greek, Armenian and Catholic Franciscans. Also very symbolic! Christmas is significant for all Christians.

You can look at the interior of the Basilica endlessly. There are almost melted murals on reddish polished columns with Corinthian capitals in the leaves, and a multi-colored carpet of Byzantine mosaics on the walls and fragments of the floor allowed for inspection, and old yellowed marble with warm shades, and a magnificent iconostasis.

Church of the Nativity Shrines.

The invariable interest of the temple guests is caused by its main shrines.

Grotto of the Nativity.

The Grotto of the Nativity is located in the underground crypt, in its northern part, where two staircases made of ashlar stone lead. The crypt and grotto of Nativity are decorated with white marble. The walls are decorated with draperies and icons. The simple mesh nurseries in which Virgin Mary placed the Jesus are always illuminated by lamps. Opposite the manger is the altar of Adoration of the Magi.

The Star of Bethlehem.

The star of Bethlehem is the second one. The first, adorned with gold and precious stones was too luxurious. And therefore attractive to the Osman conquerors, who “took” it from the temple. The current star is silver, with fourteen rays roughly carved. Above it has its own altar. It marks the place of the well that it once fell into. In this well, the Saint Mary washed Jesus after the birth. There is a belief that in the dark depths one can see a reflection of that real Bethlehem star. The star is illuminated by 15 lamps – 4 Catholic, 5 Armenian and 6 Orthodox.

Bethlehem Icon of the Mother of God.

Bethlehem Icon of the Virgin Mary – donated to the Basilica of the Nativity by the imperial house of the Russian Kings dynasty Romanovs. This is the only of the famous icons of the Mother of God, on which the face of the Holy Virgin is illuminated with a smile. Robe of Mother Mary of the Icon is made of the dress of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanova. In 1992 Elizabeth was assigned to the face of the holy martyrs. Before the icon often stand bouquets of fresh flowers. It is revered not only by the Christian, but also by the Muslim population of Palestine.

Useful information

Opening hours:

  • From April to September: 06.30 to 19.30.
  • From October to March: 05.30 to 17.00.

At 7:00 a morning service begins in the upper church. After it at about 7:40 a liturgy is served.

Church of the Nativity page on the official website of the city of Bethlehem –

How to get there on your own

  • By car, drive along the Hebron Highway in Jerusalem to the southern exit from the city via border. Then right, at the fork turn left.
    By bus – from Jerusalem from the Damascus gates to Bethlehem runs the Arab bus number 124.

Cost is Free payment.