Tour the Church of the Nativity

During our trip to the Mideast, we were able to stop and visit the Church of the Nativity. It's one of the holiest places for Christians because it is where Jesus was born.

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Karen Araiza
Bethlehem, Palestine: Church of the Nativity. This is the very birthplace of Christ.
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Karen Araiza
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is believed to mark the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
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Karen Araiza
August 5, 2014: It is one of the holiest sites in the world for Christians and the star tourist attraction for the city of Bethlehem in Palestine. On this afternoon, there were virtually no tourists due to increased tension in the region between Israel and Hamas.
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Karen Araiza
We encountered a handful of people near the entrance to the basilica but most were locals.
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Karen Araiza
The church is one of the oldest, continually operating churches in the world. Construction was finished in 333 by the Roman emperor, Constantine.
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Karen Araiza
This small entrance is called the Door of Humility. It forces pilgrims to bend over while passing through. But the reason it was constructed was to prevent easy access for looters on horseback or camelback.
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Karen Araiza
The Armenian wooden doors lead into the main interior. The wooden panels date back to the 13th century.
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Karen Araiza
Over the centuries, the basilica has survived invasions, changes in regime and natural disasters.
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Karen Araiza
During repairs in 1934, the original mosaic floors were discovered.
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Jason M. Ryan
They had been covered by dirt and then a stone slab floor in the 1800s after an earthquake.
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Jason M. Ryan
Right now the church, which is home to three different religions -- Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholics -- is undergoing a desperately-needed renovation.
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Karen Araiza
This is the main altar, which is very ornate.
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Jason M. Ryan
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Karen Araiza
The main interior also houses many religious icons.
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Karen Araiza
On the way down to the Grotto of the Nativity is a very ornate Poor Box.
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Karen Araiza
Also, an icon of the Virgin Mary which our tour guide told us was unique because she is smiling.
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Karen Araiza
Along the top of the wall in that room is beautiful, ornate carvings.
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Jason M. Ryan
The church was built over the grotto where Christians believe their savior, Jesus, was born to the Virgin Mary.
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This altar was built over the grotto.
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Karen Araiza
A 14-point star marks the place of Jesus' birth.
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Karen Araiza
A few feet away is the manger area, where Jesus was able to rest after he was born.
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The Grotto of the Nativity is a quiet place for reflection and prayer.
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Jason M. Ryan
Adjacent is the Catholic Church of St. Catherine. It's where you watch mass in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.
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Karen Araiza
Two men enjoying a courtyard and garden area at the basilicia.
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