JERUSALEM, Israel – Experts working on the restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem found an “iconic painting” that one Palestinian Authority official says is of “great religious and historical value.”
Ziad al-Bandak, chairman of the committee overseeing the renovation, told the P.A.’s semi-official Ma’an news agency, the icon, made of brass, silver, shells and stones, was found under plaster about two months ago near a window in the church.
Millions of Christians from around the world visit the church, built over the cave or grotto where many believe Jesus was born.
It was originally built in the fourth century by the Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena, and rebuilt 200 years later after it was destroyed by fire.
The basilica was in poor condition after centuries of neglect, including a leaky roof that threatened to damage the artifacts inside.
About three years ago, the Palestinian Authority led an initiative to finance a restoration project, which it said will cost about $20 million.
Once a primarily Christian town, Bethlehem is now a Muslim-dominated city in a P.A. controlled area, but they still claim the church as part of their national heritage.
UNESCO named it as the first world heritage site in what it referred to as “Palestine.”
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