Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Church of the Nativity

The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem, Palestinian territories, and is considered to be the oldest continuously operating Christian church in the world. The church was originally commissioned in 327 AD by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is still traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The Church of the Nativity site's original basilica was completed in 339 AD and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the sixth century AD. A new basilica was built 565 AD by the Byzantine Empire, restoring the architectural tone of the original. (Source: Wiki)

Church of the Nativity
The Door of Humility, main entrance into the Church
The door is very low and most people will need to bend to enter it.

Constantine's 4th century mosaic floor rediscovered in 1934

ceiling of the main auditorium

was told by tour guide that the circular bulb was to prevent rats from reaching the candle and causing a fire

This is the oldest continually functioning church in the world. This is the main altar.
ancient pillars lining both side of the nave

pillar painting of St. Onuphrius
There are forty four pillars in the church, each decorated with a painting of a saint. It is one of the most complete collection of medieval paintings in the world. St. Onuphrius was an Egyptian hermit, also known as the Naked because his hair was so luxuriant that he did not need any clothes! Like Elijah, he was said to be nourished by the Host.

wall mosaic on the north wall of the church
There are remnants of wall mosaic. The section under the middle window shows the "Tree of Jesse" showing the ancestry of Christ and figures of various prophets bearing scrolls of verses from the prophecies.

The Greek altar
We observed numerous services during our time in the church

the Armenian altar with a priest kneeling before it
click to enlarge


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