John Phocas

Descriptio Terrae Sanctae, 1177

With the pilgrim John Phocas the description of the church becomes substantially more detailed, as he provides us with information about the wall mosaics and the figures they contained, and he also attests to having seen an image of his emperor, Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, among the mosaics.

The wall mosaics in the Church of the Nativity

Holy Bethlehem is built on a rocky hill and on it can be seen the sacred cave and the manger, and the well from which David desired to drink; and on top of the cave there is a church of great length and size in the form of a cross, roofed with beams of imperishable wood, apart from the ceiling above the altar which is formed by a stone vault.

This most beautiful and vast church was built by the munificent generosity of my world-saving emperor, who also decorated the entire church with golden mosaics: in which church the Pastor of the Latins of the town has placed, in various locations including the sanctuary above the cave, a beautiful portrait of the emperor, presumably meaning to thank him in this manner for his great magnanimity.

Descriptio Terrae Sanctae, 3

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