Church of the Nativity in Wikipedia
The Church of the Nativity (Arabic: كنيسة المهد) in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously
operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the
birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and it is considered sacred by followers of both Christianity and
Islam (see Jesus in Islam).
The antiquity of this tradition is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 -
165), who noted in his Dialogue with Trypho that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside
Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary
brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found
Origen of Alexandria (185 AD–ca. 254) wrote:
In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was
wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith,
that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshipped and reverenced by the Christians. (Contra
Celsum, book I, chapter LI).
The first basilica on this site was begun by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine I.
Under the supervision of Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem, the construction started in 327 and was
completed in 333. That structure was burnt down in the Samaritan Revolt of 529.
The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by the Emperor Justinian I. When the
Persians under Chosroes II invaded in 614, they unexpectedly did not destroy the structure.
According to legend, their commander Shahrbaraz was moved by the depiction inside the church of the
Three Magi wearing Persian clothing, and commanded that the building be spared. The Crusaders made
further repairs and additions to the building during the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem with permission
and help given by the Byzantine Emperor, and the first King of Jerusalem was crowned in the church.
Over the years, the compound has been expanded, and today it covers approximately 12,000 square
meters. The church was one of the direct causes for French involvement in the Crimean War against
The church is administered jointly by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic
authorities. All three traditions maintain monastic communities on the site...
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