The Church of St. Catherine
The Church of St. Catherine can be entered in three different manners: via the north transept; through the underground caves; and passing through the Cloister of St. Jerome. The church, which is part of the complex of the former Crusader monastery, has undergone noteworthy transformations over the years, most recently the modifications carried out on the occasion of the Jubilee Year 2000.
The site, which already in 1347 had been dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, initially was only a small chapel within the Franciscan Convent, corresponding to what today is the area of the altar dedicated to St. Catherine.
The ancient structure as it appears in the drawings of Bernardino Amico underwent major changes, with its area substantially increased over time. The sacred edifice which exists today is very large and well-lit. It consists of a nave and two aisles, with a raised apse where the friars’ choir is located.
A Nativity scene is represented on the stained glass windows, a result of the modifications carried out in the year 2000. At the end of the aisle on the right is the altar dedicated to St. Catherine, while to the right, in a recessed area, is the altar of the Virgin with the statue of the Child Jesus, which dates from the 18th century and is used during celebrations of the Christmas Solemnity in Bethlehem.
Worthy of note are the Crusader arches preserved at the entrance of the church that have been incorporated in the present structure and formerly were part of what is known as St. Jerome’s Cloister. In this area is a bas-relief donated by the Pope on the occasion of Jubilee 2000.