The '''Church of the Nativity''' in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating
churches in the world. The original structure was built by St. [[Macarius of Jerusalem]] at the direction of [[Constantine the Great]] following the [[First Ecumenical Council]] in 325. That structure was burnt down in the Samaritan revolt of 529.
It is administered by a coalition of [[Roman Catholic Church|Roman Catholic]] and [[Orthodox Church|Orthodox]] clerics. Tradition records that the church was built over Jesus' birthplace, and it is held as sacred by both Christians and [[Islam|Muslims]].
It is actually a combination of two churches, with a basement where many believe Jesus was born:
*The main section (the basilica) now in the care of the Orthodox [[Church of Jerusalem]]. It is designed like a generic Roman basilica. With three
aisles and an apse. Although presently in a state of decay, it once featured golden mosaics covering the side walls, and a Roman style floor (since covered over). It also features a large [[iconostasis]], and a complex array of lamps throughout the entire church.
*The adjoining Roman Catholic church, which is done in a more modern Gothic revival style, and has since been further modernized according to the liturgical trends after Vatican II.
*The underground cave, which features the altar over the place Jesus was said to have been born. The exact spot is marked by a hole in the middle of a silver star, surrounded by silver lamps. This altar is neutral although it features primarily [[Church of Armenia|Armenian Orthodox]] design.