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“Had to go there”

Church of the Nativity
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Ranked #1 of 30 things to do in Bethlehem
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Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: Built over the Grotto of the Nativity by Constantine in 325 A.D., destroyed and rebuilt in the 6th century and renovated in the 11th century by the crusaders, this is the oldest Church in the Holy Land that is still in use.
London, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
89 reviews
63 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Had to go there”
Reviewed 19 August 2014

Like Jerusalem, I had wanted to go since I was a child. Being in Palestine, we were advised to take a tour, although we had been into Bethlehem the day before in a hired car but we did not go to the church.

Being on a tour, we had to change our mini bus at the border and go through check-points. Tours are limiting. Due to the long queue, we could not go to the star, the place where Jesus was supposedly born, although not a pilgrim I was very disappointed.

The church is atmospheric, architecturally interesting but on a tour not long enough to really appreciate is beauty and history.

However, I would not have wanted to miss it.

Visited March 2014
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Thank SarahFoster34
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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San Francisco, California
Level 6 Contributor
179 reviews
75 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Now is the time to go - if you are not afraid”
Reviewed 19 August 2014

Imagine being able to walk right into where jesus was born and spend time in the nativity area totally alone. This is what it is like now as there are virtually no tourists there- I mean literally 1% or less of the normal volume. It is amazing to feel the presence of the place at such a peaceful level and without any rush or crowds.

Make sure to go down to where Jesus was born and touch the special pointed star they have made to signify his place of birth. This is worth a picture if you are into having the memory.

Visited August 2014
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Thank Julia M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York
Level 6 Contributor
295 reviews
171 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 181 helpful votes
“A grand place to be absorbed”
Reviewed 10 August 2014

This longest continuously operating (1,600+ years) church has very interesting historical background, including the more descent, 2002 terrorist occupation of the building and the feuding monks as to who will cover the desperately needed repair costs. Oh, and not to overlook, the supposed birth place of Jesus.

Also, there are many interesting architectural aspects and art works, which are easy to overlook, if you solely focus on this amazing historical place being “just” the birthplace of Jesus and not the real gem that it continues to be.

I was particularly amazed by the central doorway, you will notice that it was modified several ways, with the current doorway so low that you have to bow on your way to enter the house of the lord or to prevent the looting by camel-riding barbarians.

Upon entry, you will walk past beautiful wooden doors.

The nave still contains the original and most definitely impressive floor mosaics of the Constantinian church.

The columns were decorated by Crusaders (some preservation work is being done at the moment)

The three silver chandeliers were a gift from Russia and represent the royal family (the Czar, Czarina, and their son). Note their sizes.

As you wait in line to the grotto, like a sardine, take the time to adsorb the beauty around you. Near the grotto entrance is the Bethlehem Virgin Mary, the only depiction of the virgin smiling. It conveys such a warm feeling, much more welcoming than what we get from other stern depictions.

A bit to the left, you will notice another interesting icon, a depiction of Peter, I think, in a sitting position, which is also a break from the tradition depiction of the apostles. This was one of my favourite parts. Make sure that you absorb enough of the beauty of the church itself. Do not focus only on the “star” as you will be disappointed for having to wait for some time only to be herded like a bunch of cattle and shouted at to move along.


Some very interesting resources that will make your experience so much more meaningful: 

http://jerusalem.com/tour/nativity_church_3D/web

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-church-of-the-nativity

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/endangered-site-church-of-the-nativity-bethlehem-51647344/?no-ist

Visited June 2014
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Thank kitty567
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
UK
Level 6 Contributor
113 reviews
51 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 83 helpful votes
“A humbling experience”
Reviewed 27 July 2014

This historical Church is in Palestine therefore we needed to go through the checkpoints and change guides as our guide through Israel was Jewish. We felt this was bit intimidating especially the wall and reminded us of Belfast. We only had a few hours to visit Bethlehem Square and Church of the Nativity. There is no charge and it is not at all commercialised but is currently in the midst of being renovated and work being done to the roof means there is a large amount of scaffolding inside. However this did not detract our main purpose to view the place of the birth of Christ. There are usually long queues and some wait for hours but we seemed to hit a quiet time and short queue of a few minutes. This must be of interest to everyone whether you are religious or not or of a different denomination. We had visited 15 years ago and there was little change except the square outside was much tidier as it was being re paved for the Millenium when we were last here. It is this is an interesting site and tHe church is run by the Christian Armenian’s, the Roman Catholics’ and the Greek Orthodox and as a result consensus on the renovations proved difficult. Again we were awed by the place and especially the many people who are Christians visiting this as perhaps the most holiest of places. Again it is seems a shame about the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the wall is a terrible sign especially at this very special place.

Visited July 2014
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Thank Steve1724
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Angeles
Level 5 Contributor
66 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 37 helpful votes
“Hard to connect to this place”
Reviewed 25 July 2014

I know what this is, and what it is supposed to be--but the structure re-construction and the crowds made it hard to absorb the significance of this place. The multiple shrines to different divisions in the church distracts the visitor from the main point. The Nativity Cave is interesting, but there are so many shrines here that it is distracting.

Visited June 2014
Helpful?
Thank mgizmo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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