It is recorded that at the time of Jesus’ birth, his parents had to travel to Bethlehem, a city that was overcrowded due to the exercise, forcing them to shelter at a random stable. Given these circumstances, was it possible to accurately identify the location later, and can you visit where Jesus was born?
Yes, you can go to the place where Jesus is said to have been born. The location is in a cave in Bethlehem. Modern Bethlehem is a thriving city in the West Bank and is 6.2 miles south of Jerusalem.
So, is the church of the nativity where Jesus was really born? Where is the manger where Jesus was born? What time can you visit the place where Jesus was born? Do you need a tour guide to visit the place where Jesus was born? What does Bethlehem look like today? What is the best time to visit where Jesus was born? Where can you stay when visiting the place where Jesus was born? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
Is the church of nativity where Jesus was really born?
It is widely claimed that from as far back as the 2nd century CE, people have generally regarded the current location of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as the Birthplace of Jesus. However, others say that Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, remarkably identified the precise location where Jesus was born when she visited Bethlehem in the 4th century. The place had been unknown throughout the previous centuries. While proponents of an earlier discovery hold that her role was limited to launching the building of the church itself, what is not in dispute is that this spot is now visited by thousands of tourists annually, most of whom believe it to be the location of Jesus’ birth.
According to early legends, Jesus’ birth was thought to have taken place in a cave. Although a cave is not mentioned in the Bible, many homes in Nazareth during that time are said to have been constructed in front of or next to caves. The cave would be used for storage or as a place to keep domestic animals.
According to legend, the Birthplace is a specific cave over which the original basilica church (St. Helena) was built in 339 CE. Some of it is said to be visible below the ground. Its octagonal eastern end is said to have been designed to encircle the cave (also referred to as the Grotto) and allow a glimpse of it.
The Church of the Nativity dates from the mid-6th century CE. This was later renovated and is currently built over this church and the Grotto. Since the early Middle Ages, it seems that the church has become more and more a part of a complex of other religious structures. As a result, it is now a part of a remarkable architectural ensemble that is said to be governed by the Armenian Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Custody of the Holy Land following the holy places status quo requirements set forth by the 1878 Treaty of Berlin.
Where is the manger where Jesus was born?
The Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore, also known as the Basilica of St. Mary the Major in Rome, is reported to be where the manger is preserved. The remnants of the “holy cradle” are said to have been kept here for close to 1,400 years. It is said to be made of a few hardwood boards that exhibit traits consistent with being from a maple tree, a plant that grew around Palestine 2,000 years ago.
But how did it come to be here, you may wonder? Well, it is said that Pope Sixtus III decided to construct a chapel inside the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in 431 CE. He is said to have wanted it to be a replica of the Bethlehem “cave of the Nativity.” For this reason, the basilica is also known as “Santa Maria ad praesepem” (“St. Mary at the Manger”).
In the middle of the 7th century, the cradle’s relics were transported to Rome. They were given to Pope Theodore I by the then-Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, and installed in that chapel. The relics and the entire chapel were transferred beneath the basilica’s high altar in the sixteenth century.
What time can you visit the place where Jesus was born?
The Grotto is said to be open from 6:30 am–7:30 pm during the summer season, that is, April–September. You can also visit from 5:30 am–5:00 pm during the winter, which is from October–March. It is reportedly closed every Sunday morning. However, you can visit in the afternoon or any other day, depending on your schedule.
Do you need a tour guide to visit the place where Jesus was born?
As with any location within the Palestinian jurisdiction, you are required to show your passport and to be accompanied by a Palestinian guide to be allowed entry. This applies to the apparent location of Jesus’ birth and any part of Bethlehem. The tour guide will help you navigate and explain various historical points and information.
What does Bethlehem look like today?
Shepherds tending to their sheep in a setting evocative of biblical times on the hills outside of Bethlehem illustrate how little some aspects of life have changed.
Bethlehem itself is said to have, over time, been governed by Ottomans, British, Jordanians, and Israelis, and this cultural mingling is evident on the streets. There are tourist souvenirs like falafel and chicken shawarma. The enormous 8-meter-tall concrete wall that Israel built as a security precaution in the 2000s is a notable aspect of the environment in contemporary Bethlehem. It has been reported that this barrier limits movement within the city.
Approximately 25,000 individuals are said to call it home. Tourism is said to be the city’s main economic driver, while the Palestinian culture is said to be experiencing a revival. Bethlehem seems to be growing as a trendy hotspot; in fact, under a UNESCO program, the 22-nation Arab League designated Bethlehem as the 2020 Capital of Arab Culture.
What is the best time to visit where Jesus was born?
The Grotto is best visited Monday through Saturday at 9:15 am when it is open to all visitor groups. By reservation, it is reportedly possible to hold two Catholic masses between 9:15 and 11:30 am on any day except Sunday. If you intend to attend Sunday mass within the Grotto, the Catholic mass is said to be at 9:30 am, while the Armenian mass is expected at 11:30 am.
Where can you stay when visiting the place where Jesus was born?
According to reports, there is plenty of lodging near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem all year. Apparently, you can choose to stay in hotels within Bethlehem or Jerusalem. The distance between the two cities is quite short. You can use online booking sites to choose and make your reservation.
- UNESCO list: Birthplace of Jesus
- Pope Francis sends thumb-size relic of the manger to the Holy Land
- Virtual tour of the St Mary, the major
- Bethlehem-Sanctuary of the Nativity
- Modern-day Bethlehem: History and separation barrier
- A side of the city of Bethlehem
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.