For the Most of the Last 1700 Years, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity has been as is still very much the case, a Pilgrim Destination.
The Eastern End of the Traditional Route from Jerusalem to the Church; Known as the Pilgrimage Route of the Star Street, it start very close to King David Wells in Catholic Center Action Club and connect it to the Church of the Nativity, and it extends along the Star Street through the Damascus Gate or what we call today Qos Al Zarara, The Historical Gate of the Town, Towners the Manger Square.
The Pilgrimage route it is still Celebrated Till Today and continues so following the path that Joseph and Mary Took During their trip to Bethlehem.
During Christmas Ceremonies Each year, the Route is Followed ceremonially by the Patriarchs Entrances of the Three Churches at their Several Christmases ( Catholic: 24th of December, Orthodox 6th of January, and Armenian on the 18th of January) and also during any official visits to Bethlehem they take the same route.
Star Street ( An Urban Street )
Star Street is one of Bethlehem Oldest Streets and Also Oldest Commercial Streets, On June 29th, 2012, Together with the Church of the Nativity, Start Street with Inscribed on the UNESCO list as a World Heritage site under the name ” Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route”
Star Street Retains its width and line by Urban Development since around 1800, In this Respect, this paved Road of Start Street as Urban Street is Barely 200 Years old.
The inscribed property is situated 10 km south of Jerusalem on the site identified by Christian tradition as the birthplace of Jesus since the 2nd century. A church was first completed there in 339 AD and the structure that replaced it after a fire in the 6th century retains elaborate floor mosaics from the original building. The site also includes Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan, and Armenian convents and churches, as well as bell towers, terraced gardens, and a pilgrimage route.
Until the Middle of the 19th Century when pilgrims visit or Enter Bethlehem, they would see the Nativity Church like a fortress on the Hill while entering the Gate of Damascus most buildings we see today didn’t exist back then.
Buildings Along the Star Street of Bethlehem
Star Street is Surrounded by Closed Buildings most of the Date back to the 19th and 20th Century ( Ottoman Period) they are situated on both sides of the Street, These buildings define the route that follows the way that pilgrims traveled to get to the Church of the Nativity and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ.
Techniques of Buildings in Bethlehem
Many of the Buildings Incorporate Roman-Byzantine Techniques. The Cross Arched Room Structure, a Roman-Byzantine Technique introduced into Palestine / Israel in the first century BC ( Time of Herod) Continued to be developed and was used until the beginning of the 20th Century.
Other roman Byzantine Techniques used over a similar time span and visible in Star Street include the Arch and the Vault, Mortar, Plaster..etc.
The Vault: is a self-supporting arched form, usually of stone or brick, serving to cover a space with a ceiling or roof.
A Wide Range of Shapes and Details are apparent on numerous buildings which are unique personal creations appropriate to the wishes of the owner and the capabilities of the Builder.
Stone Carving in Bethlehem and the Bethlehemites
Buildings Alongside the Two Sides of Star Streets exhibit fine stone carving which represents the Social and economic status of the Town at that time,
Bethlehem Had Master Stone Cutters, they were experts in Cutting and Dressing of Stones, and they had a high reputation in Jerusalem and the Rest of Palestine, They were highly demanded all the way north to Nazareth, In the Late Ottoman Period and under the British Rule Mandate, over 500 Craftsmen from the town were engaged in constructing mansions, governmental buildings, public buildings in and around Bethlehem.
Ben Arieh Mentioned that in 1908 There were 1000 Stone Cutters from Bethlehem Working in Jerusalem in his Two-Volume Work in the nineteenth Century Jerusalem, However, this Heritage seems to be totally lost and the few living builders who belong to this ancient tradition are disappearing.
Famous Bethlehemite Builders
Bethlehem Had Lots of important builders who worked with foreign Architects and were able to implement their designs using local materials.
Some of these famous builders from Bethlehem are Saleh Jacob Morcos and Ibrahim Mariya where they worked in the restoration of the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem in 1858 and also Khalil Musa Hazboun worked in building the Patriarch convent in Jerusalem and its Church in the Mid 19th Century.
Abdalla Khalil Zablah worked in numbers of convents and churches and the building of Al Ja’ar Palace, Ibrahim Mosa Nassar, Renovated Solomon’s Pools in Artas and worked with French Architect in Building Carmelite in 1876, He was appointed the Architect of Jerusalem Municipality in 1880.
Zakherya Al Bandak, Worked in Building the Church and Convent of Ethiopians in Jerusalem, in addition to numerous buildings that belonged to the Greek Orthodox in Jerusalem and also the Tanning Market in Jerusalem.