It looks that there are finally some good news coming from the Middle-East. The 6th C. Byzantine church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which marks the spot where Jesus was allegedly born, is finally being restored! This is an important breakthrough as the church is located in Palestine and undertaking any restoration works there was made difficult by political controversies and the contested legal status of the West Bank territory. Few years ago, however, the site was finally inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and now Italian restorers have been allowed to undertake works on its roof and mosaics. If you are interested, here is a short report about the progress of the works and about some new discoveries from Al-Jazeera, check it out! -------->
The church of the Nativity is the only pre-Islamic church preserved in the Holy Land. The structure survived the Persian invasion of the 7th C. and great, first Islamic Jihad which conquered entire Middle-East, northern Africa and most of Iberia. As the only surviving Christian structure in the region, the church also served as the coronation cathedral where one of the leaders of the first crusade, Baldwin, was crowned as the first Latin king of Jerusalem. To mark their affinity to the church, in the 12th C. the Latin kings of Jerusalem hired Byzantine artists to decorate its interior with rich, golden mosaics. Large sections of them survive to this day and represent an absolutely unique testimony of crusader period art and royal patronage in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Now, there is a chance that some of the original, medieval shine will be returned to them after centuries of neglect!
If you remember, sometime ago I submitted a photo of some of the mosaics from Bethlehem
and today, I would like to submit a new one to celebrate:
I hope that the restoration will include not only mosaics but also the crusader period murals which cover the columns of the church. I remember how surprised I was when I read that among the saints depicted by crusader donors in the church of the Nativity there are some Western European saints such as St. Olav who is even signed as REX DANORUM in the Latin inscription next to his head. Also, just as a final bit of info, I thought you might be interested in the fact that in the crusader period, Bethlehem was a very multicultural religious center as different communities of Christians, including Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians and Nubians (from the territory of modern Sudan) had their chapels there and were allowed to visit the site under crusader rule. This is such a fascinating site! Anyway, thank you for stopping by and reading!