UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites in danger

2 July 2019

The United Nations’ cultural agency announced on Tuesday that it was removing the place that is officially recognized as the Birthplace of Jesus, from its List of World Heritage in Danger – crediting extensive restorative work on Bethlehem’s Nativity Church, in Palestine.

The gospels of the New Testament of the Bible state that Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem, in the reign of King Herod, to Mary and Joseph. The nativity is the basis for the  Christian festival of Christmas.

Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, the World Heritage Committee made its decision based on the high quality of work carried out on the church in recent years, including the restoration of its roof, exterior facades, mosaics and doors.

The Committee also welcomed the shelving of a project to dig a tunnel under Manger Square and the adoption of a management plan to conserve the site.

Just last week reports revealed that archaeologists had discovered inside one baptismal font, or basin of holy water used for the baptism rite, a more ancient font that dates back to the sixth or seventh century.

Since the Second Century the church, situated 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem, has been identified by Christians as the birthplace of Christ.

While the edifice of a church built there in 339 CE was replaced after a fire in the sixth century, the elaborate floor mosaics were retained from the original building.

The official site also includes Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian convents and churches, as well as bell towers, terraced gardens and a pilgrimage route.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2012, due to the poor state of the Nativity Church, it was simultaneously added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Others on the list include Syria’s ancient cities of Aleppo, Bosra and Damascus, all inscribed in 2013, and the “Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool” in the United Kingdom – which consists of six locations in the city centre– inscribed in 2012.

The 54 properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger aim to alert the international community to threats to essential characteristics for which a property was initially inscribed on the World Heritage List. These can include armed conflicts, natural disasters, unplanned urbanization, poaching or pollution.

 

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