People gather to celebrate the Christmas season in the Church of Nativity in the biblical town of Bethlehem, West Bank on Tuesday. It is said this church was built around the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Photos by Debbie Hill/UPI
Russian tourists light candles in the Church of Nativity, where tradition believes Jesus was born. A church was first added to the site in AD 339, though it was mostly burned down in the sixth century. The structure that replaced it retains elaborate floor mosaics from the original building.
A tourist touches the star in the grotto of the church. The property also includes Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian churches that feature bell towers, terraced gardens and a pilgrimage route.
A Russian tourist prays among the candles at the church, which is a destination for pilgrimages. People often make the journey from Jerusalem to this church in Bethlehem as it is celebrated as the path taken by Joseph and Mary for the birth of Jesus.
Part of what led to the construction of the church was the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity during the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. The Romans utilized the power and influence of Christianity during the Crusades, which helped fund several renovations to the church.