Day 4 in Jerusalem: Visiting the Birthplace of Jesus at the Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity is the must see site in Bethlehem. Built in 339 AD over the spot where Jesus was born, it is one of the oldest continuously operating churches, surviving years of turmoil, looting and war. I have talked in-depth about my lack of membership to any one religion but I was extremely honoured to get to visit a place so sacred to Christians
The church is entered through the Door of Humility. Named as such as everyone, regardless of status, has to bend down to enter. Over the years the entrance way has gradually gotten smaller to protect the church from looters. The outlines of two larger entrances are still visible. The inside is dark with high, wood ceilings and lots of shiny lamps. Trapdoors in the floor reveal original mosaics which are astonishingly well-preserved considering they date back to the 4th Century. Behind pink limestone columns are fragments of wall mosaics dating to the 12th century. I spotted a priest leaning on the wall, talking on his mobile phone. Presumably he has a direct line to God. The church does not look very well looked after. This is not surprising considering a centuries old argument over who is responsible for the cost of the upkeep.
There was a line of tourists of all nationalities to get into the Grotto of the Nativity. Stairs take you down through a small, dark entranceway. A star on the ground marks the spot where it is believed Jesus was born. The grotto was very small and dark and full of people. Many were sitting down listening to a service. I am a bit claustrophobic but I could not miss out on the opportunity to see the sacred spot. I went into the grotto and walked straight out again. I took a photo of the star as a I walked past it. I got out before I had time to panic that there was not enough air.
We then headed to the bit of the church where they have services (pardon my lack of religious terminology). Unlike the rest of the church this bit was light and airy and very clean. I instantly recognised it from watching the Christmas Service on the BBC, so obviously I had to stop to take a picture of myself standing there! Next Christmas I can say, “I’ve been there” when I see it on the television. How magical must it be to spend Christmas in Bethlehem?
You can leave your legacy in Bethlehem and buy your very own tile at the Memorial Hall of the Church of the Nativity. I love it! How very Disney-esque of them.