A Visit to Bethlehem on Instagram

For more photos from Bethlehem, explore the Church of the Nativity location page.

In 327 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine commissioned a church to be built over the site where it was believed Jesus of Nazareth was born. The original basilica was destroyed by fire in revolts during the sixth century, only a few hundred years after its completion. The basilica was rebuilt in 565 CE by Byzantine emperor Justinian and still survives today as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Though the basilica has seen many additions throughout its time—including the iconic bell towers—the Grotto of the Nativity remains a key destination. Located in a cave beneath the church, a non-denominational marble altar and silver lamps mark the exact spot where the birth is thought to have taken place.

On Christmas Eve, crowds will gather outside the church in Manger Square to sing carols in anticipation of midnight mass.