According to legends, it was Shepherd’s Field itself where the angels announced the Birth of Jesus Christ thereby, rendering it as a site of both historical and religious significance. The field is however, separated into two distinct locations- one of them belongs to and is run by the Greek Orthodox while the other is managed by the Franciscans. Both these sites that make up for the entire land were excavated years ago and it was concluded that the spots have been homes to monasteries and churches since the 4th Century or from a time even earlier than that.
Apart from this Biblical relevance, Shepherd’s field is also known to be the place where the supreme Hebrew matriarchs Ruth and Naomi garnered during their journey to Bethlehem from Moab. Ruth was then married to Boaz and gave birth to Oved who, in turn, is the father to Jesse. Let us point it out here that Jesse was the father of King David and this is why Bethlehem is sometimes also referred to as the “City of David”. King David was born in Jerusalem and then it was prophesized that the redeemer of mankind would be born at this place too.
The Shepherd’s Field has been one of the most favored spots for the earliest Christian pilgrims; back in the time when the church was revealed to pilgrim Egeria, she stated that there only exists a huge garden and a breathtaking cave situated alongside an altar that is now safeguarded by a wall around it. Another pilgrim in 670 reported that the site is positioned at about a mile’s distance from the east of Bethlehem. If these two revelations are carefully analyzed, it affirms that the Orthodox site closely resembles their claims. At the Greek Orthodox site of Shepherd’s field, you are likely to come across the ruins of al-Ruwat consisting of a cave that was primarily used as a church in the 4th Century AD.
For the Orthodox, this al-Ruwat church was everything that they had from about the 5th century to 1955 and justifiably so because this is the only 5th-century church sited in the peripheries of Jerusalem to survive unaltered. Even though the upper part of the building was capitalized on to construct a larger charge, eventually it only made way for its destruction in 614. However, this church along with a monastery was fostered in the 7th century but, could only remain intact till the 10th century. Presently, the existing architecture of the place has undergone several modifications as a new church has been built on the available land, the 4th-century church could only be restored and the fragments of the monastery and upper church have been safely preserved.
Furthermore, there is another site to the north of Shepherd’s Field that consisted of a rectangular monastery and is known to be the home of shepherds of a period as early as the 1st century. Researches are drawn towards believing that this was nevertheless, not the spot that Egeria mentioned; it is simply one of those monasteries that were built on the /Judean desert. Lastly, the YMCA of Beit Sahour is yet another dominant setting where a lot of Protestants gather to commemorate Shepherd’s Field.