BETHLEHEM, June 26 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem upon arrival in the Palestine National Authority (PNA) on Tuesday. As any other believer the president entered the church through the Gate of Humility, which is a very low door. At the entrance to the church His Eminence Archbishop of Jordan of the Jerusalem Patriarchate Theophylactos and other clerics welcomed Putin and told him about the history of the church.
Theophylactos showed to the Russian president the conserved mosaics of the first church built in the fourth century and the wall mosaics of the eleventh century.
Then the clergymen welcomed Putin in English, presenting to him the Star of Bethlehem sign made by Palestinian masters on behalf of the Palestinian people to the president and a pilgrim.
Putin bowed to the birthplace of Jesus Christ and saw the manger of Christ the Saviour.
The Russian president also visited a Franciscan monastery, which is situated in the same building with the Church of the Nativity.
The Church of the Nativity was built over the Grotto of the Nativity, which the Christian tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The church was built in 326 on the order of Byzantine Empress Helena. The church was destroyed during the Samaritan revolt in 529. Immediately after the suppression of the revolt Emperor Justinian the Great restored the church and enlarged it substantially.
Along with the Grotto of the Nativity the Church of the Nativity houses the Chapel of Saint Joseph, commemorating the angel's appearance to Joseph, commanding him to flee to Egypt; the Chapel of the Innocents, commemorating the children killed by Herod; and the Chapel of Saint Jerome, where traditionally he translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate).
The Church of the Nativity is surrounded by a Greek Orthodox monastery, a Franciscan monastery with the Church of St. Catherine, an Armenian Apostolic monastery and the Manger Square.