The Birthplace of Jesus
The Church of the Nativity, venerated by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, may become a World Heritage Site, if the committee deems it holds "outstanding universal value" as part of the world's natural and cultural heritage. It would be the first such site in the Palestinian Territories.
To Commemorate Jesus' Birth
Located in the holy city of Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, a Byzantine basilica, was built on top of the cave where, according to a tradition first documented in the second century, Jesus was born. Helena, mother of Christian Emperor Constantine, is said to have intended the basilica to commemorate Jesus' birth. Shown here, the entrance to the Church.
The entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Here, a patio in the Church of the Nativity. The statue commemorates Hieronymus, who translated the bible into Latin.
The Church was one of three imperial churches built in Palestine under the Christian emperor Constantine (a statue of his face shown here). In A.D. 529 the Church was destroyed and built on a much bigger scale, essentially the church that stands today.
Star Marks the Spot
A silver 14-pointed star, embedded into the marble floor, marks the traditional site of the birth of Jesus in a grotto underneath Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
Two entrances (one shown here) now lead to the Grotto of the Nativity. Originally, in the fourth century, there was only one entrance to the grotto from the main body of the church.
The Church forms the central feature of the town and is surrounded by other important sites related to the Nativity. Among these is the Milk Grotto, an irregular cave hewn in the soft limestone, located southeast of the Basilica, where according to Christian traditions, Mother Mary nursed baby Jesus while hiding there from Herod’s soldiers before going to Egypt.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.