The ancient mosaic of an angel has been hidden inside the Church of Nativity in Betlehem for decades. The church is on the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.
Italian restorationists have been working with the Palestinian government in a mammoth effort to restore the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The roof and windows have been restored and mosaics that had become barely visible over centuries have been painstakingly brought back to full color, one tiny tile at a time.
The church, which sees more than two million visitors on good years, was originally built in 339 AD but rebuilt in the sixth century after being destroyed in a fire.
Infighting between the three churches involved in running the site had prevented redevelopment, with the last renovations taking place in 1478.
A surprise was the discovery of an angel that had been hidden under plaster for decades. After peeling back the plaster they uncovered the mosaic, bringing the number of angels in the church to seven.
Its outstretched hand is pointing in the direction of the cave where Jesus is believed to have been born.
There are 50 sixth-century columns to be restored, most of which have barely visible paintings of crusader figures, with wealthy donors being asked to “adopt a column”, said Giammarco Piacenti, CEO of the Piacenti restoration company which is leading the work.
“From a historical, artistic and spiritual point of view, it is everything. The centre of the world—this is everything,” Piacenti said.
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