The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine, built in the fourth century (327-333) by the Roman Emperor Constantine 1st, is one of the oldest churches in the world, built on the presumed site of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by Emperor Justinian who erected a larger building by extending the nave and adding transepts. It suffered several conservation issues and changes through the years and also many restorations but its current state needs immediate handling and catering. Currently, it is administered jointly by the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (which has the main part of the basilica and also the altar of the Nativity in the cave), the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church (who owns the silver star beneath the altar of the Nativity). The fanatical rivalry on the spatial and temporal control of the sanctuary because of the conflicts erupt in the most serious solemn ceremonies involving the simultaneous participation of several churches. In the Place of the Nativity, you find the bell tower of the Armenian monastery in the foreground and the bell tower of the Greek Orthodox monastery in the background. The basilica is part of a large monumental complex that covers almost 12,000 square feet which includes the Latin monasteries (north), Greek Orthodox (southeast, the cemetery along the south aisle of the basilica), Armenian (south- west) and St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic church with chapels and hotels nearby to accommodate the pilgrims. The current basilica architectural ensemble is a combination of two churches and a crypt – the grotto of the Nativity – where Jesus was born, according to tradition. It includes just a gateway, the Door of Humility, which originally was much larger but it has been reduced along the years. The key to the door is in the hands of the Orthodox that open at dawn and close twenty minutes before sunset. The church plan is that of a classical Roman basilica. Inside there are pink limestone of Bethlehem, white marble, many frescoes, Byzantine mosaics, eternal hanging lamps, details that also show various different religions and cultures that have passed through the years. The stairs on either side of the sanctuary provide access to the Grotto by irregular steps.
Believers gather on Christmas Eve in Manger Square to sing Christmas carols until midnight mass but it takes place at different dates according to the beliefs.
In one of the columns inside, you’ll find four holes in a cross where visitors have the habit of placing their fingers because according to the belief, Mary laid her hand so the wishes from their prayers to the Virgin, could be realized.
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