Times of Israel – Centuries-old icon uncovered in Bethlehem church

Neglected for over 200 years, Church of the Nativity is in the midst of a large-scale renovation.

Workers renovating Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity have uncovered a centuries-old icon “of great religious and historical value,” Ziad al-Bandak, a Palestinian presidential adviser for Christian Affairs, said Saturday.

Al-Bandak told the Ma’an news agency that the icon was discovered near a window under plaster nearly two months ago and is made of brass, silver, shells and stones.

The icon has reportedly been repaired and the plaster covering it removed. But it is not available for public viewing and images have yet to emerge.

Despite its spiritual significance as the reputed birthplace of Jesus, the Church of the Nativity was neglected for centuries and is listed as endangered by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency. Until two years ago, rain leaked through the severely damaged rooftop, threatening to harm priceless artworks inside.

In 2013, the Palestinian Authority took the lead in financing a restoration of the building. The rest of the funding has come from the Palestinian private sector, the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches and other countries. Al-Bandak said nearly $8 million has already been spent.

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