Out of all the places in Bethlehem, the St. Theodosius Monastery holds a special significance; apart from being a monastery that was established by St. Theodosius himself in AD 476, it finds a link with the legends of the Magi. St. Theodosius, the first to introduce Coenobitic monasticism, fashioned this monastery after reaching the Holy land and during its prime time, it sheltered about 400 monks. Like we all know, three holy men, known as the magi, came to bless Jesus with gifts after he was born; but, while on their way back, they were warned by an angel to not leave Bethlehem until being told to do so. King Herod was in search of little Jesus as he feared that when he grows up into a man, the latter’s position will be threatened; thus, to get him out of the way, he looked for Jesus extensively everywhere with plans of killing him eventually. The magi, to secure themselves from the vulnerability took shelter in a cave which presently is located on the grounds of St. Theodosius Monastery thereby reinforcing its Biblical reference.
The area on which the monastery is established was not concluded randomly, but it is said that God himself led St. Theodosius to this place. After its inception, the monastery relied on donations from the wealthy men in Bethlehem for its funds along with the saint’s perseverance and dedication towards his creation. He was, above all, a preacher who influenced and transformed everybody’s life around him and educated them on how to practice monasticism while living in a society that is molded by materialism.
In 808 AD, the Persians invaded Bethlehem and wreaked havoc in some of its historical sites including St. Theodosius Monastery; the purpose was to drive off the monks from their monastery and set their own rule in these places. Nevertheless, the monastery was reconstructed during the Crusader period but, it again met with the same fate and this time it was the Arabs. But, between the years 1914 and 1952, the structure was reformed on the vestiges of the Greek Orthodox Church and fortunately, it has safely kept away from devastations of similar degrees. the interiors of the church are adorned with unblemished white marble and inside there is a breathtaking church decorated with Biblical quotes along with the priceless pictures of Jesus and monks. The tomb of St. Theodosius along with some of his monk companions are placed in a cave surrounded by white walls in the monastery.
Significance in recent times
The St. Theodosius Monastery is situated just 12 km away from the Mar Saba monastery, specifically in Ubeidiya, a Palestinian town. If you are visiting Bethlehem for the first time and looking forward to getting acquainted with its rich cultural and religious history, then taking a tour of St. Theodosius monastery is a must. The picturesque setting of the monastery will relate you every bit of the religious implication that grants this hermitage its character and has spurned the rudiments of the city which now happens to be its identity, for so long.