Grotto of St. Joseph
Following along the course of the Daily Procession, and leaving the Grotto of the Nativity through an underground passageway built by the Franciscans to ensure a direct access to the Holy Place, one comes to the Grotto of St. Joseph.
Now restored in a modern style by the Franciscan artist Alberto Farina, this would have been the nearest cave to the Place of the Nativity. As one exits from the underground passageway, the Altar of St. Joseph is on the left.
Directly in front the foundations of a Constantinian wall and a pre-Constantinian arch have been preserved, confirmed to date from the 1st to 2nd centuries AD. This area was used as a burial ground for “saints”. Indeed, the custom of burying the dead in the vicinity of a Holy Place was a common one, occurring also in the West (notably in Rome).
Leaving the underground area to enter the Church of St. Catherine, it is possible to pass through the supporting walls of three different reconstructions of the area of the apse: one from the Constantinian period and the other two from different Byzantine periods, one of these being a planned design that was never fully implemented.