Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world, and the oldest in the Holy Land (founded in 325). The structure in a style of a cross is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The building was founded by the Queen Helen of the Byzantine Empire.
The main Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It is designed like a typical Roman basilica, with five aisles and an apse (a room in a shape of a semicircle) in the eastern end, where is placed the sanctuary.
The walls of the church are covered with ancient mosaics, sadly mainly damaged. The basilica can be entered through a very low door, called the “Door of Humility”. The original mosaic Roman style floor is covered over, but part of it can be seen through the trap door in the modern floor. Next to the altar there is a large gilded iconostasis and a big number of decorative lamps throughout the entire building.
The Grotto of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Opening Hours: Summer: 6:30 am – 7:30 pm (April – September) Winter: 5:30 am – 5:00 pm (October – March); Tel: 02-2742440
Church of St. Catherine
The Church of St. Catherine is said to be built on the site of Christ’s appearance to St. Catherine of Alexandria and his prediction of her martyrdom (around 310 AD). It is first recorded in the 15th century and it is a Roman Catholic Church – This is the church where the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem celebrates Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
The modern basilica has three aisles. To the north and west is the active Franciscan monastery. Outside the west door of the church is a pleasant cloister, restored in 1948 by A. Barluzzi using columns and capitals of the 12th-century monastery. The cloister includes a modern statue of St. Jerome; the church facade is topped with a statue of St. Catherine.
Opening hours: Summer: 6:00 am – 12:00 noon & 2:00 – 7:30 pm (April – September), Winter: 5:00 am – 12:00 noon & 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm (October – March), Sunday: Open Sunday morning for masses. Grotto opens in the afternoon; Tel: 02-2742425