Christmas Day — a good day to post pictures of Bethlehem. The focal point of any visit to Bethlehem is Manger Square. It is a pedestrian zone bordered by the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Omar, the Palestinian Peace Center and a wonderful falafel shop which also serves freshly squeezed orange juice. Star Street, Nativity Street and Manger Street converge on the square.
Some claim that the Church of the Nativity is the oldest Christian worship site in the world. It was built during the rule of Constantine on a site selected by his mother, St. Helena. She identified the cave in which she felt Christ had been born and Constantine ordered the church built on top of that site. In the 1930s original mosaics from the fourth century, the time of Constantine, were discovered and are now visible. You can see them in one of these pictures. The cave where Christ was reported to have been born, and an adjacent cave where Mary laid him in the manger, are chapels. We decided not to stand on line to visit those caves but visited the ones adjacent under St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, which is both separate and a part of the Church of the Nativity. If St. Helena can declare a certain cave to be the spot 300 years after the event I can decide that an adjacent cave is just as likely a spot 1,700 years later and visit it –without the crowds.
Merry Christmas !!!
I took these pictures in April, 2010.