The Church of the Nativity is widely considered the holiest sites in Bethlehem. It is regarded the birth place of Jesus Christ. It is also one the oldest surviving churches in the modern world. Justin Martyr around 160 AD stated the place of birth of Jesus Christ being a cave in area of Bethlehem. The word of Martyr is also agreed upon by Origen as well as Eusebius around the third century. In 326AD, a church was built over the cave by Constantine and his mother whose name was St. Helena. The floor plan was octagonal and was placed directly above the cave. The church was opened on May 31st, 339 and in the exact center, a four meter wide hole existed which was surrounded by a safety railing in order to provide a view of the whole cave. Some sections of the floor mosaics still exist today. Around 384 AD, St. Jerome who lived and worked in Bethlehem was buried in the cave beneath Church of the Nativity.
Today a much larger Church of the Nativity built by Emperor Justinian in the year 530 AD stands on the destroyed church of Constantine. According to popular legend, Magi – a subgroup of Persians decorated the whole building leading to the Persians sparing its destruction during their invasion in 614 AD. This fact has been quoted in the ninth century synod located in Jerusalem in order to portray the function of the various religious images. Hakim’s decree of 1009 ordering demolition of the Christian monuments was not allowed to be implemented by the Muslims because since time of Omar in 639, they had allowed use of south transept for the worship purposes.
The invasion of Jerusalem by the Crusaders on the date of 6 June in 1009, led to the crowning of Baldwin I and Baldwin II subsequently. Cooperation and tolerance between Byzantines and Franks led to the redecoration of the interior during 1165 till 1169. This event had been recorded by the Greek inscription on the north transept of the Church of the Nativity. Church of the Nativity also survived destruction even during the Mamluk as well as Ottoman periods. The marble in the church was burgled by Ottomans and now can be found at the Temple Mount located in the city of Jerusalem.
The Crimean War (1854–56) was fought as a result of the theft of Silver Star which marked the precise site of Nativity. This was a crucial period in international crises over Holy Places. In the year 1852, the shared custody of Church of the Nativity was granted to Roman Catholic, Armenian as well as Greek Orthodox churches. Grotto of the Nativity is cared for by the Greeks. A little rectangular opening to the church called The Door of Humility was constructed in the Ottoman times in order to prevent the looters carts being driven inside and to prevent even most influential visitor to get off from the horse while entering the sacred place.
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