Tag Archives: Church of the Nativity

Bethlehem: Church of the Nativity — The Unveiling!

During Christmas and Advent, Bethlehem—and the Church of the Nativity—are featured on many news broadcasts.

When visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, visitors (rightfully) focus on the “grotto” that is the “traditional” place of the birthplace of Jesus.  Prior to 2013 the Upper Church was a bit dingy and the mosaics on the upper walls and the paintings on the columns/pillars where not too visible.  Since 2013 visitors have been greeted with all kinds of scaffolding and curtains so that not much of the church—that was built by the Emperor Justinian (ruled 527–565)—was visible.

View of the interior of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April 2016—during the process of restoration.

The Italians and Palestinians were/are involved in the still ongoing restoration project of the Church of the Nativity—that began ca. 2013.

However, in 2018, much of the restoration project is in the process of being unveiled—with stunning results!

View of the restored mosaics along the north wall of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The register depicts the Council of Antioch—AD 277. Click on image to enlarge and/or Download.

The large register, below the windows, depicts the key decisions of six provincial councils.

The one in the center, inscribed in Greek within a church, is from the Council of Antioch (AD 277). The name “Antioch” is spelled out above the church—6 letters to the left of the dome and three to the right. The text reads: “the Holy Synod of Antioch in Syria of 33 bishops took place before the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea against Paul of Samosata who held that Christ was a mere man. The Holy Synod expelled him as a heretic.”

Note the angels between the windows. At the foot of the one third from the right, is the name of the artist—”Basilius Pictor.”

“The mosaic decorations on the walls of the nave date to the restoration of 1165–9.  Each side had three registers: the detailed description made by the Franciscan Qaresmius in 1628 enables us to complete the missing sections.” (Murphy–O’Connor, pp. 235-36).

Restored mosaic on the south wall of the Church of the Nativity. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View of one of the restored mosaics on the south wall of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The mosaics on the south wall commemorate the decisions of the six ecumenical councils.  I believe that the broken part on the left depicts the Council of Nicea (325) while the complete one in the center the Council of Constantinople (381).

In the upper portion note the image of a saint with a Greek inscription and below it Crusader graffiti. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View of one of a restored column in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In the upper portion note the image of a saint and below it Crusader graffiti.

Most of the red limestone pillars, quarried near Bethlehem, served in the fourth century church. From 1130, the Crusaders decorated the upper part of the pillars with painting of saints whose names appear in Latin and Greek.

For additional views of the restored mosaics and columns Click Here.


Commentary from Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide From Earliest Times to 1700. Revised and expanded Fifth ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 236.

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Excavations at Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

Although I have visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem many times I came across an interesting article on the excavation and preservation of the Armenian “Hall of Saint Jerome”—something I had not seen before.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Photo from article linked below.

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Excavation of the “Hall of Saint Jerome” that is part of the Armenian complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo from article linked below.

For details please see the article “CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY | WISCONSIN CONNECTION: UW-Madison professor helps preserve historic church in Bethlehem” that describes Professor Dante Fratta of the UW-Madison’s work in the church (a 3 min read with photos).

Images for Advent/Christmas

As many of you prepare for the Christmas Season you might be interested in the images that I have posted on places that are associated with the birth of Jesus:

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View looking down into modern Nazareth
The Dome of the Church of the Annunciation is visible on the left
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

20 images of Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation.

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The Grotto in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
The traditional site of the birth of Jesus
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

32 images of Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

These are high-resolution images, with commentary, that are available for you to download and use (without cost or obligation) in your personal PowerPoint presentations.