The Church of the Nativity
Millions of Christian pilgrims visit one site religiously each year regardless of place of origin, religious affiliation, or color. The Church of the Nativity, a time-honored location in Bethlehem, and a place worth journeying to if you find yourself on this far side of the world.
The Church of the Nativity is a massive structure and has a wide area surrounding it to house the four major authorities which manage it (Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Syriac Orthodox churches). The birthplace of Jesus, this ancient structure has been around for thousands of years. The actual church was constructed in approximately 327 by Helena and Constantine the Great to commemorate the spot where Jesus was born (it was built above the cave where Mary birthed).
Some parts of history were not kind to this structure; the church was ravaged by fires in the Samaritan Revolts of the 6th century. However, many other periods of time showed expansion, kindness, and reconstruction of this holy site, allowing it to become the impressive expanse that it is today.
Church of the Nativity Compound
In addition to the church itself, the space encompasses Manger Square, the Church of St. Catherine, a site erected in honor of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the nativity grotto (below ground), and various chapels and monasteries to accommodate the masses of people who throng there. The main basilica is designed like a Roman basilica and features golden mosaics, mosaiced tile floors (that have since been covered), and various lamps from those ancient times.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Church of the Nativity, in 2012, was voted as a UNESCO World Heritage site, amidst some controversy. Today, the church and its compound are considered a world and religious heritage monument, though they are in danger of ruination due to decades of water damage that has not been attended to properly.
When you visit Israel this year, make sure the Church of the Nativity is on your to-do list because this is one monumental location you simply cannot miss out on.