Catholic Church of St. Catherine

The Church of St. Catherine is a Catholic church and Franciscan monastery connected to the mostly Orthodox Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church is said to be built on the site of Christ’s appearance to St. Catherine of Alexandria and his prediction of her martyrdom (c.310 AD). Map.

She is buried on Mt. Sinai. The church is first recorded in the 15th century and may incorporate the chapter house of the 12th-century Crusader monastery that stood on the site. Traces of a 5th-century monastery associated with St. Jerome also exist here. St. Catherine’s Church was enlarged in 1881 with funds from the Emperor of Austria.

The modern basilica has three aisles. To the north and west is the active Franciscan monastery. Outside the west door of the church is a pleasant cloister, restored in 1948 by A. Barluzzi using columns and capitals of the 12th-century monastery.

The cloister includes a modern statue of St. Jerome; the church facade is topped with a statue of St. Catherine. Just to the right upon entering the church, steps descend to more caves beneath the Church of the Nativity.

Here rock cuttings and ancient tombs with various modern additions commemorate various people and traditions. It is unlikely that these locations are authentic, although Paula, Eustochium and Jerome are known to be buried somewhere in the caves beneath the Church of the Nativity.

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