The Church of Nativity and the Church of St Catherine in Manger Square of Bethlehem are amongst the top religious attractions in the Christian pilgrim’s bucket list.

The Church of Nativity and Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem

How to reach the Church of Nativity

The Church of Nativity and the Church of St Catherine both are in Bethlehem which lie inside Palestinian Territory. The only way to reach there is via Jerusalem after crossing the security checkpoints.

Once inside Bethlehem, a tourist can hire a taxi to Manger Square where the church is located.

On the Palestinian side
On the Palestinian side

Bethlehem is a world apart from Israel. The roads, the houses and even the vehicles looked old and dilapidated, as is reflecting the state of the nation. the church, which was constructed over the place where Jesus was said to have been born.

The Church of Nativity

The Church of Nativity is located in Manger Square, which is the most busy intersection in Bethlehem. This Church is constructed over the caves where Jesus was said to have been born.

Entering the Church of Nativity from the busy Manger Square, one is immediately struck by the serene atmosphere which permeates every corner of this basilica.

Far from the grand nature of the Roman basilicas, this church is simple in every aspect of its construction, and is as beautiful as it is sacred. This church was in fact built on Constantine’s 4th century church.

The original beautiful mosaics of that building can be seen in a small part of the flagstone floor which gives way to a wooden opening.

The mosaics from the original church, as seen from the wooden opening
The mosaics from the original church, as seen from the wooden opening

The Grotto of Nativity

The grotto inside the Church of Nativity is the main area where Jesus is said to have been born. From either side of the basilica’s great choir, flights of stairs lead down to the grotto of nativity. A silver star, set on white marble marks the birth place of Jesus, where millions come every year in reverence of the event which took place 2000 years ago. Silver oil lamps hang over the grotto, burning day and night.

To the side of the grotto is the alter of the Magi. In memory of the 3 wise men who visited the Baby in the manger.

The Church of St. Catherine inside the Church of Nativity

In the same compound of the Church of Nativity is the Church of St. Catherine. It was built in 1881. Its ground incorporates a Crusader’s cloister, surrounding a peaceful courtyard, and with the statue of St. Jerome.

The traditional midnight mass, which is seen by people around the globe on Christmas Eve, is broadcast from the Church of St. Catherine.

St Jerome’s Grotto

Beneath the courtyard of St Catherine’s Church in Manger Square is a series of underground caves, connecting St. Catherine’s to the grotto of nativity. One cave was the home of St. Jerome, while he translated the Bible into Latin.

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