Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine

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.

 
Tips

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.

St. Constantine and St. Helena church, Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The church of St. Constantine and St. Helena is one of the oldest Christian temples of Plovdiv, located on a site that housed a Christian sanctuary already in the early fourth century. It is on the ramparts of the Acropolis, in the center of the old town. The Severian and Memnos martyrs were beheaded in 304 (at the place where the church is) because of their Christian religion. The archaeologists support that the temple was built 30 years after the death of these martyrs and that it had their name. The actual name is due to Emperor Constantine when he was canonized as a saint so they changed its name and that of his mother. Along the years, the temple was built and rebuilt and the one we see today dates from 1832. In 1950, they discovered an ossuary that preserved the bones of tens of generations of inhabitants of Plovdiv during excavations. Today they rest in a pit located beneath a tombstone found in the temple courtyard. This court has a solid stone wall around that reaches 6 to 8 meters in height and is crowned by a massive brick cornice. Some additional buildings in the courtyard gives it the appearance of a monastery. The interior has three naves with a vaulted ceiling of extraordinary richness. There are murals, an iconostasis wooden sculpted, icons and a wooden sculpted pulpit.

Tips

If you visit the church without an organized tour, enjoy to walk in the old town because there are many things to see, beautiful architecture and lots of history.

Basilica of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Galilee, Holy Land, Israel

The Basilica of the Transfiguration is a Franciscan basilica on Mount Tabor in Galilee in the Holy Land, Israel. It was built with an orientation to the east in 1924 by the Franciscans who had the field since their installation in 1631, where Christian tradition says there was the event of the Transfiguration of Christ alongside Moses and the prophet Elijah, in favor of Pierre, Jacques and Jean. The Basilica is on the ruins of another Christian church that was built between the fourth century and the sixth century but also another church built in the twelfth century by the Crusaders. There is also a Franciscan monastery that was erected with the basilica. In the proximities of this basilica, there are another Greek Orthodox church that was built by evoking the same event of the Transfiguration. The road route for the transportation of materials needed for construction, is used today by pilgrims visiting the basilica. The entrance to the site is by the door of the Wind or Bab el-Hawa, old vestige of the Muslim fortress of the thirteenth century. The sanctuary has three new, large arc between the two towers in its facade and bronze doors. The nave is separated by the side of the vault arches and overlooks a staircase carved into the rock that goes down to the crypt. The scene of the Transfiguration is represented at the bottom in the choir. You can also see the remains of the previous masonry on the walls.

Tips

From the top of the mount, you might enjoy a magnificent view of cultivated fields of the plain of Esdraelon.