Historical and archaeological analysis of the Church of the Nativity

Bacci, Michele ; Bianchi, Giovanna ; Campana, Stefano ; Fichera, Giuseppe

In: Journal of Cultural Heritage, 2012, vol. 13, p. 5-26

The team has considered the special status of the Basilica of Bethlehem, which is not just a monument of outstanding historic and artistic importance, but also and fundamentally a holy place, that has long been and is still perceived as a memorial site, marking the place of Christ’s birth and transcribing into a sacred topography the main events of the Gospel narratives. Because of such a... Di più

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    Summary
    The team has considered the special status of the Basilica of Bethlehem, which is not just a monument of outstanding historic and artistic importance, but also and fundamentally a holy place, that has long been and is still perceived as a memorial site, marking the place of Christ’s birth and transcribing into a sacred topography the main events of the Gospel narratives. Because of such a peculiarity, the team considered that it was indispensable to analyze the Basilica of Bethlehem from different viewpoints, namely those of archaeological and historical research. The historical approach aims at understanding the centuries-old development of the holy site as a ritual space and the materialized expression of holiness, the ways in which it has been perceived and used, and the messages that it was meant to convey to its beholders. It combines the findings of previous archaeological research with the data provided by the analysis of written evidence, including old textual sources about the Basilica (especially chronicles and pilgrims’accounts). For the archaeological study of the Basilica of the Nativity, we used the methodology of its investigation of the Archeology of Architecture. Stratigraphical analysis was carried out in relation to various portions of the church walls, as well as in relation to the buildings that make up the whole complex, in order to understand the dynamics of major changes in the structure in its entirety. Direct analysis of evidence from the walls was supported by the reading of existing literature and historical maps with particular reference to the plans of the church. These tools of investigation have been applied to the analysis of the church in its entirety, including its underground cavities.