BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
The project, partially funded by the Palestinians and conducted by a team of Palestinian and international experts, is the biggest restoration at the iconic church in some 600 years. The removal of centuries of dust has left Crusader-era mosaics sparkling in sunlight filtering through brand new windows. Structural repairs on the fragile rooftop and windows have been completed and art treasures have been returned to their delicate elegance.
Although the Palestinians are overwhelmingly Muslim, they consider the church a national treasure and one of their most visited tourist sites, and President Mahmoud Abbas has been actively involved in the project.
Ziad al-Bandak, who leads the Palestinian committee in charge of the restoration, calls what has been accomplished so far nothing short of “revolutionary.”
“For the first time you can see, when you go up, mosaics really magnificent and beautiful and unique in the whole world,” he said.
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