“Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible said
Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas day”
Bethlehem has been marked as Jesus Christ’s place of birth since time immemorial; but, apart from the customary carols and hymns that have constituted the place for centuries, there is a string wonder reserved for the visitors. Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, in particular, has been preserving the town’s sanctity since the 4th Century A.D. and is hailed as the birth spot of the Redeemer; thus, this is the reason why it qualifies as Bethlehem’s most preferred sightseeing location. The church prevailed here from the time when Byzantine Emperor Constantine built a chapel in its peripheries circa 4th Century but was later supplanted by a 6th Century basilica under the commandments of Emperor Justinian. However, in the 12th Century, the crusaders restored the church and established it in its present form. The biggest marker that reflects the overlapping work throughout all these centuries is the Central doorway which encumbers the earliest door and safely preserves the significantly ornamented architrave of Emperor Justinian’s Church in their place.
Like we have already mentioned, one will never run out of surprises when at the Church of Nativity and we can further emphasize on this fact by revealing that even though the Gospels do not confirm Jesus’s birth in the cave underneath this church, but there are written references that associate the Nativity cave back to AD 160. The Persians were known to have invaded Palestine in 614 and brutally destroyed the churches too, but they left out the Church of Nativity after coming across the mosaic carvings on the interior walls exhibiting the Three Wise Men dressed in Persian robes. The most intriguing part of the Church lies in the fact that it doesn’t celebrate Christmas like the rest of the world; December 25th is marked as Jesus’s birth date according to the Georgian calendar, but as per the Orthodox notions, Christmas comes 13 days after the 25th, that is, on January 7th.
The Crusaders discreetly altered the architecture of the Church after reestablishing it- the size of the entrance was invariably reduced and a doorway with a pointed arch was inserted within the space. Afterward, the doorway again went through a dip in size to safeguard it against the Mamluks riding into the realms of the church on horseback, therefore, implying that presently, it is only 1.2 meters high and the visitors are required to bend down while entering. The interiors of the church are nothing less than Pandora’s Box- it has fundamentally conserved the monumental excellence of the 6th Century. The north transept belongs to the Altar of Circumcision while its southern counterpart has the Armenian Altars of the Virgin and the Three Kings. The paintings from the Crusader period remains intact on the clerestory walls and columns of the church whilst the ones of the south side, displays figures of the saints and Baldwin I’s helmet. Moreover, the southern transept makes way for a doorway leading to the Grotto of the Nativity which, in turn, is said to be the precise spot of Jesus’s birth and is hence, marked with a silver star. This grotto is the dominant hallmark of the Church and holds a profound religious significance for the Christian pilgrims.