One of the distant architectural feats originally patronized by Constantine the Great (take a look at the animation of the city of Rome during his time), the Church of the Nativity was conceived as a basilica in Bethlehem, West Bank. Completed in 339 AD, then destroyed by Samaritans in early 6th century, and then again rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in 565 AD – suffice it to say, the basilica had stood the test of time. But beyond just traversing history, the church has also preserved some mysteries of its own. And one of them evidently pertains to a puzzling religious icon crafted from an assortment of valuable materials, including brass, silver, shells and precious stones.
The discovery came to light due the years-old restoration work done (from 2013) on this endangered world heritage site. In fact, this Church of the Nativity refurbishment project is a major restorative endeavor taken after 500 years, and is the proud $8 million collaborative effort of Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches along with the local Palestinian authorities. So far, the project has been a success, with the first leg of the restorative works already being achieved. As Ziad al-Bandak, a Palestinian presidential adviser for Christian Affairs, and the leader of the Palestinian committee in charge of the refurbishment, said (to Maan News)-
The removal of centuries of dust has left mosaics sparkling in the sunlight filtering through brand new windows. Structural repairs on the fragile rooftop and windows have been completed and artistic treasures have been returned to their delicate elegance.
As for the mysterious religious icon in question here, the experts have successfully been able to clean the plaster of its surface and then repair the object. And judging by its design, the artifact is at least a few centuries old – thus endowing it with both religious and historical value. Unfortunately, the discovery has not been made available for public viewing till now, and hence no photographic documentation is accessible (as of writing the post).