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Showing 1 - 20 from 66 entries

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> The Pillar Paintings in the Nativity Church
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The Shepherds' Fields
submitted by Turathuna Bethlehem University

According to St Luke, it was the shepherds who were the first to spread abroad the message of the Angels. In the valley east of Bethlehem, reached today by a twisting motor road, but in fact only 1100 yards (1015 m.) from the Church of the Nativity, is the village of Beth-Sahur. There is a ruin field here known in Arabic as Deir (monastery) or Kanisat al-Ru'at (Church of the Shepherds). The underground church belonging to the Greek Orthodox is used here still on Sundays and at Christmas, and, until quite recent times, the Latins came here at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning. The Franciscan church 1100 yards (1015 m.) away was not built until 1954, when a notice was placed there in Italian: Campo del Pastori (Shepherds' Field). A Byzantine monastery and church have been excavated here.

St Jerome says that the place 'where the shepherds in their vigil had the honor of hearing the Gloria in excelsis' was about a thousand yards from Bethlehem, and this corresponds very well with the first site. In 1137 Peter the Deacon, using a fourth century source, speaks of 'a very bright cave containing an altar where the angel, appearing to the shepherds as they kept vigil, announced Christ's birth to them.' In 670 Arculf told Adomnan, Abbot of Iona, that he had visited the tombs of the three shepherds. It was about a thousand yards from Bethlehem. He says nothing of a cave. Nevertheless, many other pilgrims mention the cave, and it seems plausible that this is the one in the Greek church. Certainly, however, the ruins on the Latin site are of antiquity, and controversy continues without any particular prospect that new evidence will provide a decision one way or the other.

The Greek Church has been excavated, and covered by a protective roof. It is open from 8 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m., 6 p.m. in the summer.

A natural cave was given a mosaic floor c.350. Rock was cut away to erect a church in the cave. Its barrel roof is still intact. A church was built above the cave church later, with a mosaic floor which is still preserved. There are two holes in it to enable pilgrims to look into the cave below. This was enlarged in the sixth century, and destroyed by the Persians in 614. They burnt the roof, and damaged the mosaic pavement below. The church was again rebuilt in the seventh century, and survived as a monastery until the tenth century.

Source: The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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