The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, revered by untold generations of pilgrims as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, has had a tumultuous history.1 The original basilica, in the form of a columned Roman temple, was built by the Emperor Constantine in 330-33, following his adoption of Christianity as the religion of the empire and the visit of his mother Queen Helena to Jerusalem and nearby Bethlehem in 325. Those two places became the jewels in the crown of the Byzantine Empire, the settings of the key events in the life of Christ.