Internal space

Internal space

The silent, cosy atmosphere, enhanced by the harmonious architecture is evident as soon as you enter the church and fits with the Sanctuary that it encloses. The northern wall – on the left as you enter – is made of a modern wall build onto the Crusader church’s strong wall, from well-made stones separated by half-columns. The windows which are a work by Lydia Roppolt and a gift from Austria, reflect an old style. The remains of the Byzantine basilica containing the new celebration altar in front of the Grotto can be seen in the centre, enclosed by an iron balustrade.

Beneath the Byzantine age mosaic floor there are plastered stones that belonged to the older place of worship. Marks left by pilgrims over the centuries can be spotted in the plaster which is now displayed in the archaeological museum of the Basilica. A basin with steps was found beneath the mosaic, almost exactly the same as that found in the church of Saint Joseph.

At the bottom of the lower basilica there are the three apses, partly restored and partly rebuilt to reflect the Crusader style. The two on the sides, with altars facing towards the people, have been rebuilt with ancient stone; the central one is decorated with an embossed copper cross by the sculptor Ben Shalom from Haifa, a copy of the one that spoke to Saint Francis in the church of San Damiano. The organ pipes are located in the apse and are made by the famous Tamburini firm of Cremona.

Internal space