The Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the Oldest Church in Palestine: A Study in Architecture, Arts, History, and Heritage
Copyedited by
Samir el-Deek
Institute for Palestine Studies
Publication Year: 
Number of Pages: 

This book is the first in Arabic to deal with the overall spiritual, architectural, and artistic history of the church, tracing the various stages of its development. It also provides detailed descriptions of its decorative elements and symbolic features, and describes the recent restoration work, of which the author was a co-supervisor.

Bethlehem witnessed, according to the Christian religious tradition, the birth of Jesus, the Messenger of Love. There are very early signs identifying the site since the first century AD, when the pilgrimage tradition began to emerge and expand, and it became associated with a path for pilgrims. An early church was built on the site in conjunction with the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, under the auspices of St. Helena, in the first quarter of the fourth century AD.

The Byzantine Emperor Justinian rebuilt it before the middle of the sixth century AD, and that is the building that still exists today. Thus, the Church of the Nativity is the oldest church in Palestine that preserved its original character. Having been in existence for over fourteen centuries, it is also considered one of the oldest churches in the world. The history of the Church of the Nativity recapitulates an important part of the history of Eastern Christianity. In recent years, the church has undergone a comprehensive restoration process that has restored its glow, showcased its aesthetic qualities, and preserved its history, and visiting it has become an incomparable spiritual and artistic experience.


Nazmi Jubeh, Professor of History at Birzeit University, graduated from Birzeit University in Palestine and the University of Tübingen in Germany. He was formerly the director of the Islamic Museum in Jerusalem, director of the Birzeit University Museum, co-director of Riwaq Center for architectural conservation, and has been a member of the Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Church of the Nativity since 2010.

He has published various books and articles in the fields of history, archaeology, architecture, and cultural heritage, focusing on the history of Jerusalem and Hebron in particular. His most recent books include:

Lifta: Register of a People, History, Cultural Heritage, and Struggle (Beirut-Ramallah: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2020)

The Jewish Quarter and the Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem: History and Destiny between Destruction and Judaization (Beirut-Ramallah: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019);

Jerusalem in Israeli Historical Writings (Rabat: Bayt Mal Al-Quds Al-Sharif Publications, 2019).