The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is set to undergo major renovations for the first time in hundreds of years.
According to CBN News, the construction of the ancient church was commissioned by the Roman Emperor Constantine at his mother's request. The Church of the Nativity is a popular tourist attraction for Christians because many believe that the structure was built where Jesus Christ was born.
"Whenever anybody comes from all over the world, they have to taste and to feel the place where actually Jesus was born here [so] as to give the people the peace and love," said Church of the Nativity Greek Orthodox Parish Priest Father Issa Thaljieh.
The church, which has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, was most recently renovated in 2013. As part of the Bethlehem Development Foundation's (BDF) overall goal of renewing Bethlehem, they were able to raise enough money to begin restoring the Church of the Nativity. So far, the Manger Square has been updated. The Church of the Nativity is next to be renovated.
Restorers have begun working on fixing the roof and the windows church.
"The original [windows are] not here anymore. They replaced them with new windows," BDF's CEO Mazen Karam explained.
The church's walls, which were added over 850 years ago, and the original floor also need serious repair.
"Eleven percent of the mosaics exist," Karam continued. "The rest was lost. So they cleaned up all the mosaic[s]. [They were] very dirty and, you know, soot and debris, and they cleaned it."
According to CBN News, while cleaning the mosaics, workers discovered a third angel in the art.
"The third angel was completely covered with plaster, and you can see that all the angels are pointing to the grotto, which is where Jesus was born," Karam noted.
To raise funds for the renovation, the BDK launched its "adopt-a-column" program. The effort will allow patrons to help fund the restoration of the church's 50 columns which were erected by Byzantine Empire Justinian I in the 6th century. Each column will cost around $50,000 to refurbish.
Additional renovations are being made in the area by the altar, where only priests are permitted to go.
"We try to bring everything back to the beginning before it had damage over the time," Andreas Miaoulis, an art conservator from the Greek restoration company Artis, told CBN News.
Delicate 250-year-old gold-covered carvings at the front of the church are also being restored.
"As you can see, these really dark areas are a result of years and years of residual of soot from candles as well as human fat because the majority of the people they touch everything, so they leave a lot of little oils [from their fingers]," Miaoulis said of the carvings.
"We clean it. We restore it. And then where it's missing gold leaves, we try to put it back on again and resurrect it in a way that it once was," he added.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, of the $30 million raised for the Bethlehem region so far, $15 million has been used to restore the Church of the Nativity.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Wildnerdpix
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.