Many sacred Christian sites, churches, and monasteries are located in and around the city of Bethlehem.
The Church of the Nativity at Manger Square, built over the cave where Jesus Christ was born. This building is the oldest standing church in the Holy Land. Originally built by Constantine's mother in the 4th century, Emperor Justinian rebuilt the current structure in the 530s.
It is here where the Holy Family took shelter during the Slaughter of the Innocents and Mary nursed her child Jesus Christ before going to Egypt. It is said that a drop of the Virgin's milk fell to the floor of the cave, turning the rock white and giving rise to the chalky stone.
Is identified as the scene where the Angel of the Lord visited the shepherds and informed them of Jesus' birth; "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And the Angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:8-10).
Is a Greek Orthodox monastery which is located in the Judean Desert to the east of Bethlehem. Having been built about 1,500 years ago, it is one of the longest-inhabited monasteries in the entire world! Mar Saba, was founded by monks with the desire to find quiet solitude where they could follow the example of the prophets.
St. Theodosius Monastery
Founded in 476, is about 12 km east of Bethlehem. This monastery was destroyed during the Persian invasion. The building that stands today was constructed by the Greek Orthodox Church and incorporates the remains of an old Crusader building and is inhabited by a dozen Greek Monks.
Mar Elias Monastery
Stands like a fortress on a hill from which both Jerusalem and Bethlehem can be seen. Mar Elias Monastery is located 5 km to the north of Bethlehem on the way to Jerusalem, and was founded in the 6th century AD and rebuilt by the Emperor Manual Communes in 1160.
Saint George Monastery
Two miles from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is the village of Al Khader. In the middle of the village is the monastery church of Saint George. Above the church flies the flag of Saint George. This flag is also the flag of England. The only Christian living in Al Khader is the Greek priest in charge of the church.
The Salesian Monastery
Located on a hillside in the northern part of Bethlehem. It was erected in the late nineteenth century by various religious denominations. Don Antonio Belloni is the founder of the Salesian Orphanage in 1863, as well other institutions. Today the complex includes two monasteries, a church, an orphanage, a technical school, bakery and the International Nativity Museum.
Hortus Conclusus (The Sealed Gardens)
The convent is believed to be on the site of King Solomon’s Gardens, and the name of the convent, derives from Solomon’s Song in which King Solomon speaks of his beloved saying: “My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed a fountain sealed up. The plants are a paradise of pomegranates” (IV 12-13).
The Convents of the Carmelite Sisters & Betharam
Built in 1888, the French Convent of the Carmelite Sisters resembles the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome. It is located in the southwest part of the city of Bethlehem, just outside the old core. In the same complex is found the Church and the Monastery of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart of Betharam, which was built in 1878. The Convent has a hospice where guests can stay.
St. Nicholas Church
Situated in the old part of Beit Jala and named after the patron saint of Beit Jala, St. Nicholas Church is built on the remains of an earlier construction. This consists of a chapel and two side rooms built by Karj monks who came from Russia during the Ottoman Period. In 1921, the church was demolished and a new church built on top of it. During construction, an old cave, believed to be that in which St. Nicholas prayed, and the ruins of an old Byzantine Church were discovered.
The monastery was built by Father Belloni as a novitiate for the brothers and priests of the Holy Land. Aside from the lovely physical setting, attractions include the wine cellar with its high-arched ceiling full of casks of aging wine and brandy, which was established in 1885, and adjoining shop, located a few hundred meters beyond the main building.