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Place Descriptions

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The Shepherds' Fields
   
submitted by Miluse Tumova
13.12.2006

The Shepherds' Fields are located in a broad valley with olive trees, in the village of Beit Sahour, approximately one kilometer southeast of Bethlehem.
According to an ancient tradition the Shepherds' Fields are the place where angel announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus Christ.

Pious traditions also associated the Shepherds' Fields with the place where Jacob pastured his flock and built the Mignal Eder (i.e. Tower of the flock) referred to in Genesis 35:16

The precise location of the appearance of the angels to the sheperds is unknown, but several sites have been venerated by Christians at different periods.
The traditoin of the site centred on two: one is in the care of the Greek Orthodox Church as „Der Er-RA´wat“ (meaning Convent of the Shepherds, in Greek the site is known simply as „Poemenion“ meaning the pasture), and the other is maintained by the Franciscans and known as „Der Es-Siar“.

The Greek-Orthodox Shepherds' Fields

This site is located in a small valley with olive trees, some dating back 2000 years. There is the subterranean church dedicated to the Mother of God. This site is revered as the spot where an angel surrounded by a supernatural light, appeared to the bewildered shepherds. On the night of Christ´s Nativity, this undergroud church was the cave of the shepherds, who heard the angelic proclamation „Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men“ (Lk 2-14)

The angel said to the shepherds:
„Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people .
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.“

„And suddently there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying: ´Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men´.“

And it came to pass, as the angel were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherd said on to another: „Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord made known to us. (Luke 2:8-15)

This cave was one of many churches built by Saint Helena. The cave functioned first as a shelter, then as a tomb of the shepherds, and has been treated as such by Christians since the 4th centrury.
Therefore, directly connected with Jesus, it has been venerated as a holy place from the earliest Christian times.
Beside this church St. Helena built also a convent for nuns, called the Convent of the Gloria in Excelsis, today only the crypt of the church remains. It is a dark, subterranean chapel which contains an altar at the east with a number of paintings and a small apse behind it. The roof is a cut stone vault of the usual Roman or Byzantine type. Some fragments of a mosaic pavement can be seen on the floor and faint traces of painting on the walls

Old paintings in the underground crypt



The New Church in the Greek-Orthdox Shepherds' Fields



In 1972 the new church was erected near the traditional site of the underground Church of the Shepherds. It was decided to build the new church adjacent to rather than immediately above the cave
The new church has three holy altars which dedicated as follows: the main altar to the Mother of God, the altar on the right to the great martyr and healer – Saint Panteleimon, and the altar on the left side to the archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the heavely hosts.

The Interior of the New Greek-Orthodox Church



The Iconostasis of the New Greek-Orthodox Church



The Roman-Catholic Shepherds' Fields

This site lies one km to the north-west of the Church of Er-Ra´wat and it belongs to the Franciscan.

There are also caves and a new church.

The new church was erected 1953-54 and stands over a cave in which the shepherds are suppoused to have lived. It is built in the shape of a tent, a polygon with five straight and five projecting sides. Inside the church, the frontal and the upper part of the altar are decorated with fifteen panels depicting various scenes from the Annunciation to the arrival of the Holy Family in Egypt.

The New Roman-Catholic Church



(see more photos: PFN/Photography - local/Places of Worship)

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