National Geographic shared this incredible post the other day, and I saved it and am sharing it:

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Photograph by @simonnorfolkstudioon assignment for an upcoming story for @natgeo … Mosaics at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem: The Doubting of Thomas.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the only major church in the Holy Land that survives intact from the early Christian period. The Church of the Nativity was originally commissioned in 327 by Roman emperor Constantine and his mother Helena over the cave that is still traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. The present church was built by the Emperor Justinian after the destruction of the Samaritan Revolt of 529 CE. In 614, the church had a narrow escape. A Sassanian army from Persia had invaded the Holy Land and proceeded to destroy all the churches. However, they desisted at Bethlehem because they recognised the images of their ancestors, the Magi, above the entrance to the Church.

The site is currently under restoration within an international project managed by the Palestinians through the Project Client “The Palestinian Presidential Committee for the Restoration of the Nativity Church”. Work on the mosaics is part of an estimated $19 million makeover -the building hadn’t undergone major repairs since 1479. Of the 2,000 meters of original mosaics, only 150 meters squared remains. Mosaics created 155-1169CE

The artist, Basilius, signed his name in Latin and Syriac — using tesserae. Basilius did the technical work, Aram was was the artist.

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I grew up attending weekly mass at Nativity parish in Warminster, Pennsylvania.