Perhaps for Christians, Bethlehem is a place everyone wants to visit once in their life. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was born. The 3,000-year-old ancient city is today an important pilgrimage site for Christians and an attractive tourist attraction for tourists coming to Palestine. From Jerusalem, it only takes 40 minutes by bus to get to Bethlehem.
Visit the place where Christ was born
According to legend, when shepherds were tending sheep in a large field, an angel appeared, bringing good news, a good omen for the whole valley. The angel announced that “the Messiah is born, follow the instructions to find the swaddled baby lying in a manger”.
That field is now the town of Beit Sahour, an eastern suburb of Bethlehem. The exact location where the angels appear is difficult to pinpoint. Therefore, there are many places considered to be the place of this event until 1953, when the famous monk and architect Antonio Barluzzi built the current Shepherd Church with the same shape as tent of nomadic shepherds, dome and cross at the top.
The entrance to the church is an arched stone gate with the inscription believed to be the words of an angel in Latin: “Gloria in excelsis deo” (Glory of God). Above the main entrance is a bronze statue depicting an angel descending, announcing the good news of the birth of Christ. The inside of the dome is decorated with carvings of 10 angels…
Of the four altars, the central altar of the chapel, dedicated in 1954, is carved with a Canadian maple leaf in memory of the Canadians who contributed to the construction of the church. On the walls are paintings depicting the lives of shepherds, scenes of angels appearing and announcing the birth of Jesus.
Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity is located in the center of Manger Square. This is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, built in 339 after Constantine the Great and Queen Helena visited the birthplace of Christ in 327. The church was burned down by the Samaritan uprising. in the early 6th century and restored by the Byzantine emperor in 565. The door to the church is very small, you have to stoop to get inside. The entrance to the church used to be quite spacious, but the Crusaders blocked it, leaving only a very small doorway.
They believe that God lived in a poor family, suffered humiliation on the cross, then everyone entering this sacred place had to bow down and lower themselves. Therefore, this door is called Khiem Ha gate.
The church sanctuary is decorated with many lights, candles, dignified and profound images of God, making visitors feel a sacred and reverent atmosphere. Beneath the church is the holiest place: the place where God was born. Queen Helena identified this place as the manger where Jesus lay and built an altar there.
Currently, this place is marked by a main altar, under the altar is a cave deep in the ground where Jesus was born. Above is a 14-pointed silver star on a marble background. Christians and tourists often kneel to pray, press their hands or kiss the star in gratitude. This area is always crowded, people have to wait in line for their turn. The Church of the Nativity is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site and is the first World Heritage Site in Palestine to be recognized.
Milk Cave Chapel
The Milk Grotto Chapel, called Magharet Sitti Mariam/ Grotto of Our Lady, was built in 1872 by Franciscan monks on the site of an old Byzantine church dating from the 5th century. was built quite special when hewn from limestone.
Legend has it that this is where the Virgin Mary hid to breastfeed Jesus while he and Joseph fled the pursuit of Herod’s soldiers before reaching Egypt. A drop of Mary’s milk fell to the ground while Jesus was nursing and turned the reddish-brown stone walls of the cave into cream-white. Currently, Sua Cave is a favorite destination for infertile couples from many different religions in all parts of the world.
The Christians of Bethlehem used to say, “Every day is Christmas in Bethlehem.” Indeed, when standing in this sacred city, regardless of religion, visitors share the same emotion and gratitude. The vestiges of a tumultuous and heroic historical period are still preserved to this day, spiritual values dating back thousands of years are still treasured. Perhaps, the moment of touching the 14-pointed silver star or standing in front of the place where Mary took care of Jesus will be unforgettable memories of each person when coming to Bethlehem.
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Collection: CHRISTMAS Collection