House of Saint Joseph

House of St. Joseph

Following on along the same street – on both sides of which there are several modern Christian cemeteries belonging to various denominations – after a short walk we see a chapel on our right: it is the ‘House of St. Joseph’.

After the Child was born, the holy Family stayed in Bethlehem for a while. Jesus was circumcised and when the time prescribed by the Law of Moses had elapsed, our Lady and St. Joseph with the Child went up to Jerusalem for the Purification (Lk 2,22). The Wise Men found Jesus in a house (Mt 2,11).

The Gospel states that the holy Family lived in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth; it is probable that they found a shelter somewhere in this area. The transition from grotto to house is no contradiction: St. Joseph hailed from Bethlehem and might have had relations and friends here who, aware of his distress, helped him.

Furthermore, St. Joseph was an artisan: he could work and gain his living. Already during the Middle Ages attempts were made to localize in Bethlehem a specific memory of St. Joseph. Researches were always made on the eastern hill slope, between the Milk Grotto and the Shepherd’s Field, probably following an ancient local tradition.

According to two Florentine pilgrims (George Gucci and Leonard Frescobaldi), the site had been finally localized in the second half of the 14th cent. The modern chapel (1890) bases on rock as well as on buildings mentioned by many pilgrims. At the foot of the apse we can see a piece of rock and, behind the altar, a block probably belonging to the primitive altar.

The chapel commemorating the ‘House of St. Joseph’ was donated by Mrs. E. Audebert. In order to avert troubles with the government authorities, the building was deliberately given a modest outlook, as if it were the house of a watchman. On 20 March 1893 the small church was solemnly consecrated by the Father Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. James Ghezzi.


Shepherds' Field

The Milk Grotto

Cisterns of David

Hortus conclusus

Rachel's tomb  


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