The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest working churches in existence today. The first Church was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD, over the grotto where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Constantine and his mother, Helena, built a magnificent and majestic church adorned with beautiful marble and mosaics.
Later, during the 6th century, the Byzantine emperor Justinian built a new and even more intricate church on the same spot. During the Persian invasion in the 7th century, the church was spared destruction. By the 11th century, the Crusaders raised their flag above the Basilica of the Nativity and renovated it.
The main entrance to the Church of the Nativity was gradually made lower and narrower in order to protect it from invaders. Two sets of stairs lead down to the Grotto of the Nativity where a fourteen-point silver star marks the exact spot of Jesus’ birth. An inscription on the star states Hic de Virgin Maria Jesus Christus Natus Est – meaning “Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary.” The actual guardianship of the Church is shared by three Christian denominations: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian.
Opening Hours: Summer (April – September) 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., Winter (October – March) 5:30 a.m. –5:00p.m.
Note: Sunday morning the Church is open for Holy Mass. The grotto is closed on Sunday morning and opens in the afternoon.
Location: Manger Square, Bethlehem