More Funds Needed for the Restoration of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem |  June 17, 2016

Two rows of columns in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (photo M.A.B. / CTS)

The Palestinian Authority is seeking international funders for the restoration of the 50 columns in the Basilica of the Nativity. It will take another two years for all the work to be completed.

(t.d.) – “Adopt a column!” This is the appeal by Ziad Al-Bandak, advisor for Christian affairs to the Palestinian President and head of the commission that is overseeing the restorations in progress at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem (go to the dedicated Internet site). New funds are needed to complete the restoration of the very ancient church which stands on Jesus’ birthplace. We are speaking about 2.5 million euro for the restoration of the fifty massive columns in the basilica, in other words, fifty thousand euro per column.

The restoration of the basilica started from the roof in September 2013, with the approval of the three Churches which are responsible for the holy building: the Greek Orthodox, the Latins (represented by the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy land) and the Armenians. In addition to the roof, so far the windows, the narthex, two doors, walls and plaster and, most recently, the mosaics, have also been restored.

After the architraves and the chapters, a new site is now to open. The rows of columns that support and flank the central nave should regain their original appearance. Thirty-two of the fifty columns from the Justinian period are decorated with 12th century crusade paintings, today covered by centuries of encrustations. From underneath the layers, portraits of Western and Eastern saints accompany the steps of the pilgrim to the presbytery.

Twenty specialists from the Italian firm of Piacenti, which works with several local businesses, are responsible for the restoration. It is extremely painstaking and costly work. To contribute to funding it, states, companies or individuals can now “adopt a column”.

To date, some 9 million euro have been raised, donated by numerous governments and international subjects (including Italy, France, Hungary, the Holy See, Russia, Spain, Greece, Poland, the Palestinian National Authority) but also private citizens. To complete the work, another two years and seven million euro are needed.

The restoration has allowed bringing to the light new traces from the times of Constantine who in the fourth century built a first basilica, which was later destroyed. They are wooden materials, reused and decorated, found a few days ago inside the architraves of Justinian, but this discovery has yet to be confirmed by the carbon 14 dating method.

Since 2012 the Basilica of the Nativity has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site

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