Located in Bethlehem and the site of a recent stand-off between Israelis and Palestinians in what seems like their never ending conflict. It is also one of the most sacred places in Christianity. Located at Manger Square, a short 5 mile drive from Jerusalem (depending on terrorist stops) the church is built over a grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to given birth to one Jesus Christ. This is according to Saint Justin Martyr in the second century. The church itself has been fought over for centuries. From the Muslims to the Crusaders, many are the armies that have both seized and defended the church throughout history. Presently, it's controlled by three branches of Christianity, namely the Armenian Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. It was Emperor Constantine who completed the basilica circa 333 AD. The original structure was completely destroyed in the early 6th century and was rebuilt in its “modern” day form by Emperor Justinian Access to the basilica itself is through the Door of Humility, a door so small that visitors must bend over or kneel in order to go in. One legend has it that it was built that way during the Ottoman era in order to prevent mounted horsemen from entering and vandalizing the church. Another has it that since it is a custom among Muslims not to bow before other people, the only way they could get them to lower themselves was to build the entrance in such a way as ro make them bow. (thx to mr100percent for that tidbit) After entering the church, one passes through the nave. From there one descends the steps to see the Grotto of the Nativity, which contains the manger where baby Jesus was laid after he was born. The grotto itself is encased in white marble. A fourteen-pointed star on a marble stone marks what is believed to be the exact site of the birth. The High Altar stands behind the star. As an aside, I'm not too familiar with the recent events surrounding the stand-off in the church and from what I do know, my write up would be way too opinionated. I leave that up to my better informed noders who might be more impartial on the subject that I am.

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