Saturday, January 14, 2017

Restorations on the Church of the Nativity

REPAIR WORK UNDERWAY: Bethlehem shrine’s treasures being restored (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service/Crux reprint).
The Church of the Nativity, built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, sits in Bethlehem above what’s believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Since 2013, Italian experts have been working with the Palestinian government to overcome cultural and religious differences and forge ahead with an ambitious restoration.
As frequently with such things, this is the traditional birthplace of Jesus. In historical terms there is no certainty where or even in what year Jesus was born. But the site has a long tradition of association with his birth:
The church was completed on Constantine’s orders in 339 A.D. but later destroyed during conflict in the sixth century. A new basilica was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in 565 A.D. and lined with colorful wall mosaics much later, during the 12th century.

“The design of the transept is an example of exceptional craftsmanship, and so too are the mosaics, the columns, the capitals and the architraves,” Piacenti said.

Over the years the structure has suffered from degradation and water infiltration. It was declared a U.N. World Heritage site in 2012 in a bid to save it from further decay and it’s also on the World Heritage endangered list.
But Piacenti said few realize it also withstood invasions, war and natural disasters.

“This church is a fortress that has survived attacks and 15 terrible earthquakes and it is still standing today,” he said.
The restorations have been underway since 2013 and are reportedly about two-thirds complete.

Background on its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site is here and links.