There are numerous interconnected caves adjacent to the Grotto of the Nativity. This area was used in ancient times for funerary purposes, a usage that has been maintained over time.
The largest cave and the one nearest to the Place of the Nativity, known as St. Joseph’s, is divided into two areas and is connected to the Convent of the Franciscans. From this cave it is also possible to access the Holy Grotto by means of a private passageway of the Latins that is used for the Daily Procession to the Place of the Nativity.
Opposite the Altar of St. Joseph, on the right, are two small caves, the second of which is dedicated to the Holy Innocents. Directly in front a portion of a pre-Constantinian arch belonging to a funerary chamber has been preserved. It was torn down during the time of Constantine to make way for the foundations of the church.
It is thought that this point of the cave may have been the original entry into the cavern, and from here one could have made out in the background the scene from the Holy Crib.
On the right is the passageway leading to the cave of St. Jerome, St. Paula and St. Eustochium: here were found the tombs of the three saints along with 72 graves from various periods, which are now preserved within a single burial vault.