Authorities in Bethlehem hope UNESCO’s recent admission of Palestine will enable them to list the church on the site of Jesus’ traditional birthplace as a world heritage site.
The Church of the Nativity is one of the holiest places in Christendom, and pilgrims come from all over the world to visit it. The focal point is a 14 pointed silver star which marks the place where, according to the Bible, Jesus was born.
Officials say the roof is in particular need of repair, its centuries old brittle wooden beams pose a danger to visitors, and leaks have already ruined many of the priceless mosaics and paintings.
The church, which was originally built in 327 AD, has not seen any major renovations for over half a century, mostly due to conflict in the region. In 2008 it was placed on the Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund.
The cost of new repairs is estimated to be around 10 million euros.