Topics: Spirituality | Religion

Photos highlight efforts to renew Jesus’ birthplace

Experts from around the world helped renovate Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity

Bright spot: A worker dusts a chandelier at the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Until recently, pilgrims travelling to the site believed to be the birthplace of Jesus may have been concerned. After years of neglect and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity was dilapidated, and its artworks had lost much of their lustre. Part of the problem stemmed from a centuries-old agreement that said no changes could be made to the building without consensus from all the Christian denominations with a presence in the Holy Land — no small requirement considering the tensions between many of them.

By 2012, the situation was so grim that when UNESCO named the church a World Heritage Site it also placed it on the List of World Heritage in Danger. But all that has changed thanks to extensive renovations that began in 2013. UNESCO has now removed the church from the endangered list, citing the high quality of work. In December 2018, Associated Press photographer Majdi Mohammed captured scenes of the renovation in the lead-up to one of the church’s largest Christmas celebrations. 

— Celina Gallardo

Renewal: Experts from all over the world helped renovate the church. Here, they’re meticulously working on a floor mosaic inside the church.
A granite column being restored.
Collaboration: A worker reveals restored tile mosaic. After years of mistrust and arguments, the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches are working together in the restoration.
Ready for visitors: Guests stand below a renovated part of a fresco. Bethlehem receives thousands of tourists over the Christmas season.

More on Broadview: Can Christmas be fun and soulful again?

This photo essay first appeared in Broadview’s December 2019 issue with the title “Saving Jesus’ birthplace.”

Broadview is an award-winning progressive Christian magazine, featuring stories about spirituality, justice and ethical living. For more of our content, subscribe to the magazine today.


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