Church of Nativity: Where Christianity was Born
Head straight for Bethlehem, turn left, and you’ll find yourself standing at one of the most influential places in the history of all of Christianity. The Church of Nativity is a hallmark for Christians everywhere, and there are few places in the world where holy pilgrims should visit at least once in their lives. Here’s what you need to know about the Church of the Nativity, so you can stop by the next time you’re in the Middle East.
Biblical History of the Church
Open up any version of Luke or Matthew, and you’ll be able to read a familiar story. They tell the tale of Jesus being born with a slight variation. Matthew says that Joseph and Mary were actually from Bethlehem where Jesus was born, while Luke confirms that they were only in Bethlehem for an event. Either way, the birthplace of Jesus is irrefutable, and that is the exact location where the Church of the Nativity stands today.
Architecture of the Church
The Church of Nativity was built in 326 by Constantine the Emperor and his mother, St. Helena. The octagon-shaped floor decoration stood directly above the cave where Jesus is believed to have been born. If you looked directly at the middle of the octagon, you would see a 4-meter hole in the floor with a banister surrounding it peering down into the cave. And, though this church was destroyed less than two hundred years later, there remains several of the beautiful floor mosaics from the Constantine church. Fortunately, a larger and more permanent structure replaced it, and that is the one that is still standing today.
Bethlehem is a city bursting with interest and excitement for Christians and other tourists to Israel. After you’ve visited the Church of Nativity, you can also stop by Manger Square, the famous Milk Grotto, and the Church of St. Catherine along with many of the other amazing sights to behold.