Bethlehem in the iconography
Representations of the Church of the Nativity in history
Already in ancient Christian times Bethlehem was represented in numerous mosaics and miniatures, both by artists who had visited the site and by those who did not have any real knowledge of the sanctuary.
Among the former we can provide a brief list of some of the representations that have given us a near-real image of the development of the sanctuary: The fourth-century wall mosaic in the Church of Santa Pudenziana in Rome, which to the right of the Redeemer has an octagonal building and to the left another that is generally identified as the Tomb. The sixth-century mosaic floor at Madaba, which includes a representation of the Justinian construction with its three trefoil apses that identify the structure.
The medieval miniature (13th century) preserved in Cambrai (France), which shows the façade of the church, with two bell towers, at the time of the Crusaders. The xylograph contained in Journey to the Holy Land (1483) by Bernhard von Breidenbach in which there are sketches of the church showing elements that today are no longer visible −including the enclosing wall, the buildings inhabited by the Greeks and Armenians, the arcuate form of the church’s windows and the three crosses that indicated the indulgences – thus restoring for us the appearance of the ancient church.
Finally, note should be made of the numerous sketches of Fathers Bernardino Amico (16th century) and Ladislao Mayer (18th century), the latter of whom has provided us with many interesting details, notably of the cloister.