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Tradition and technology at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, 1833, Bethlehem, Israel

The 1833 illustration of the interior of the Church of the Nativity is in the public domain

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012. Many believe the church was built over the site of the birthplace of Jesus and, thus, is one of the most important sites in the Christian religion. Located approximately 10 km south of Jerusalem in the area known as the West Bank, it has long been an important pilgrimage destination for Christians and those interested in the history of the Christian religion. The portion of the Pilgrimage Route from the wall of Bethlehem to the entrance to the church was included in the World Heritage inscription.

While undoubtedly of major historical importance, the nomination of the church to the World Heritage List was not without controversy as the Palestinian Authority, not the Israeli government, placed the nomination into consideration by the World Heritage Committee. UNESCO voted to accept Palestine as a member over the objections of the United States and Israel, since the boundaries of Palestine have not been agreed to or recognized internationally. The site is located in the Palestinian-administered West Bank territory of Israel.

The present-day political machinations notwithstanding, the Church itself has been subject to extensive research, archaeological investigation, and contemporary conservation. The result is that stunning mosaics have been restored to their 600-year-old glory in addition to original architectural features. The Palestinian Authority assembled a team of Christian religious leaders to oversee the project, the contract for which was won by an Italian firm.

In addition to the restoration work, a tourist app is being developed to provide better guidance to the historic site. Expected to be launched next year, the app will initially operate only in English before other languages are added to it.


Church renovation lifts Christmas spirit in Bethlehem

By Mohammed Daraghmeh

The Associated Press

December 24, 2018

Bethlehem to launch app to control tourist crowds at Church of the Nativity

By Agence France-Press

December 20, 2018

Also see

Christmas activities begin in West Bank town of Bethlehem

By Isabel Debre

Associated Press

December 24, 2018

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