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Other sites in the surroundings

  The Church on the "Milk Grotto"

In Bethlehem the sacred area around the Nativity Grotto has been the focal point of all tradition. Nevertheless in Bethlehem a small Chapel has been for long centuries a devotional site. The "Milk Grotto" over which today a small Chapel rise, is frequently visited by local women, Christians and Moslems alike, to ask for the intercession of Mary. mother of Jesus. A legend recalls how some Mary spilt some milk while breast feeding baby Jesus and this is the reason for the "white" stone of the cave. A tradition going back to the VII century located at this site the burial place of the innocent victims killed by Herod the Great after the birth of Jesus.

   Shepherds field

Leaving Bethlehem to the plains underneath you can see the site where tradition indicates the spot where "Shepherds kept watch" on that night when Christ was born. The site is situated about 600 m from the town in the village of Beit Sahur. Eusebius (265-340) says that Tower Ader, a thousand paces from Bethlehem marked the place where the shepherds received the message. St. Jerome had the same opinion. Arculf (670) saw a church in this place. The Calendar of Jerusalem (VII-VIII cent.) says that to the east of Bethlehem was a monastery called Poemenium (of the flock) where the angel appeared to the shepherds. The Abbot Daniel (1106) calls the place Agia Pimina (holy pasture) and Peter the Deacon (1137) calls the church Ad Pastores, which had a grotto and an altar, while Phocas (1177) mentions a monastery too.
After the Crusader period the area seemed to have laid in ruins as the pilgrims started to visit a new site, Deir el-Ra'uat (Convent of the Shepherds). Since 1859 though the site of Siyar el-Ganam (the Sheepfold) has been preferred as the traditional site of for these evangelical events. This area, in the care of the Franciscans, was partially excavated in 1859 by C. Guarmani and extensively excavated by Fr. V. Corbo in 1951-52. These excavations revealed a vast monastic agricultural establishment, with presses, cisterns, silos and grottoes. The site resulted inhabited since the Herodian period had its main development in the V-VII century. A first church of the IV-V century was enlarged in the VI. In this reconstruction, in the apse of the Church, the builders used stones coming from the Constantinian octagonal construction of the Basilica of the Nativity. The remains of two semicircular altars and inscriptions in mosaics confirm the sacred character of the site.
Near these ruins, in 1953 the Franciscans built a "tent like" chapel as a sanctuary to commemorate these events. This sanctuary of the "Gloria in Excelsis" is the work of architect A. Barluzzi and is internally decorated with frescoes by Noni. This chapel was built by donations coming from Canada.
To the East of Bethlehem, dominating the skyline towards the Judean desert, rises a truncated cone-shaped isolated mountain on which Herod the Great constructed the fortress which he dedicated for himself. "Herodium". Herod wanted to be buried here, but no sign of his tomb was ever discovered. This fortress, known to the local people as Gebel Foureidis, was excavated by Fr. Virgilio Corbo ofm with financial aid from the Italian Government in four campaigns (1962-67).

  Bethlehem MainOther Santuaries  


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Created / Updated Wednesday, December 19, 2001 at 18:14:36 by John Abela ofm
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