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Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,  "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him." - Matthew 2:1-2

The Basilica of the Nativity is built above a cave believed to be the place where Jesus was born. It is the oldest continuously used church in the world. The first church was erected in 329 AD by Queen Helena, mother of Constantine. Later that century ,the great bible scholar Jerome settled in Bethlehem near the church, and an important monastic community grew up around him. The Emperor Justinian in the 6th century built a larger basilica, some 30 inches above the original floor. When the Persians sacked many churches of the Holy Land in the 7th century, they left this church intact because they found the Magi in familiar dress in the mosaic on the facade. Also see | Bethlehem | Beit Jala

Crypt built over the spot believed to be the cave where Jesus was born

Nave of the Church flanked by red limestone pillars

fragments of original mosaic floor
Franciscan monastery next to the church (photo below)


steps leading to the crypt beneath the main altar

Red limestone pillars were quarried near Bethlehem

The entrance was shortened to prevent invaders from pillaging
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(c) 2001 Don Schwager