The Kathisma church and martyrium was one of the Holy Land’s biggest churches and the first of them dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Kathisma church was built around a rock where early Christian tradition says that the pregnant Mary rested while on her way with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. An early tradition says a miraculous spring appeared there to quench Mary’s thirst, and a 6th-century account tells of pilgrims drinking sweet water at the site. Map.
The Kathisma church was not destroyed during the Persian and Islamic conquests of the 7th century, but was used as a mosque in the 8th century. Because of the respect shown by the Koran for Mary, experts speculate that this may have been one of a few churches that were shared by Christians and Muslims during the Arab period.
The Kathisma church was built by a wealthy widow named Ikelia in AD 456 around a rock where early Christian tradition says that Mary rested while on her way with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was enlarged in the 6th century, but destroyed around the 11th century.
In 1992 the Kathisma church was discovered by a bulldozer, which dug into a mosaic floor buried in an olive grove during widening of the Jerusalem-Hebron highway.