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Grotto of the Nativity

The Grotto of the Nativity is said to be the location where Jesus Christ was born. The grotto is an underground space that forms the crypt of the Church of the Nativity and is found beneath the main altar and can be accessed through two staircases on both sides of the chancel. It is a portion of a network of caves that are accessed through other means. This location is rich with symbolism, but it looks different from the other types of imagery that are often seen with the nativity images found on Christmas cards.


The area is rectangular, measuring 12 meters by three meters in size. Much like the church that is above it, it is in the possession of the Greek Orthodox Church. The exact spot that is considered to be the birthplace of Jesus is marked by a 14-pointed silver star that is inscribed with Latin words that translate to "Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary."


Installed in 1717, the star was set into a marble floor and has since been surrounded by 15 silver lamps that represent the three main Christian communities, including the Armenian Apostolic, the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox. The 14 points of the star are purported to represent the three sets of 14 generations that are found in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. During feast days, the star is lit by way of 48 hanging lamps.

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