1.         Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) (C 1433)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2012

Criteria  (iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2012-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Corrective measures identified

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet established

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2014-2014)
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 723,000 from Italy (Emergency Action Plan 1997-1998; Conservation and Management Plan  2006-2010).

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

On 7 February 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/documents. Progress in a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented in the report as follows:

- Several rehabilitation activities related to the Pilgrimage Route,

- Bylaws for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage in Bethlehem: Bethlehem Historic Centre and Individual Traditional Buildings throughout the Town. These were reported to have been gazetted in February 2014,

- Manual for the Rehabilitation of the Historic Centre of Bethlehem.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The Church of the Nativity:

Progress has been made towards the restoration of the roof of the Church of the Nativity and the detailed investigations carried out on the overall conditions of the Church.  Although considerable survey and research into the Church of the Nativity has been undertaken, this has not been used as a basis for a Conservation strategy, as requested. Such a strategy needs to set out the historic evidence and significance of the overall building and its component parts, as a guide to how conservation interventions are identified and addressed. However, details of the strategy have not been provided in the report.

Currently there is no way of telling whether the proposed structural timber repairs are taking full account of the undoubted historic character of the roof, which may possibly contain elements surviving from Justinian’s construction period.  Given the rarity and consequent importance of such a structure, there should be clarity about the way in which its historic character is taken into account by the repair programme. In addition, there is no reference to any research into the historical character and significance of the leadwork with which the roof is covered, or analysis of its condition and it seems that timber repairs are being carried out to the roof trusses without any reference to the condition of the roof coverings.

There is a need for a clear understanding of the way in which all the component aspects of the fabric of the building, which appear to have been investigated in detail on an individual basis by the various members of the Consortium, are understood in a holistic way.  The absence of such an overall assessment makes it difficult to comment on the scope of the work presently being carried out, and its appropriateness within the framework proposed for the overall project.

The contractors who were appointed on 25 July 2013 to carry out Phase I (Roof and Windows restoration) are already half way through their programme. Details were provided for the roof project in terms of the specific techniques and areas of investigative study carried out by the various research units within the Consortium.  However, the report sets out no clear conclusions drawn from the findings of these separate investigative units and no clear set of recommendations for the resultant coordinated action to be taken. 

It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to develop a conservation plan which draws together the conclusions of the detailed investigative reports into a comprehensive conservation strategy for the whole property and reinforces its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).

Conservation and management plan of the property:

Noting the reference made to the development of the property’s conservation and management plan, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee urge the State Party to expedite its completion together with the overarching conservation strategy, and submit them for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to their adoption.

The State Party has not yet identified the corrective measures and Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger that would serve as a basis for planning of all future action at the property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are ready to assist in this regard. The World Heritage Committee may want to request the State Party to attend to this.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7A.5

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7A.27, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Regrets that the State Party had not developed the overarching conservation strategy for the Church of the Nativity prior to the commencement of the restoration works and requests the State Party to provide such strategy based on the analysis of the church fabric and its historic, archaeological and architectural characteristics, prior to any future conservation works;
  4. Notes the progress made towards the restoration of the roof of the Church of the Nativity but expresses its concern that this work is not being guided by a defined conservation approach;
  5. Also requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to develop corrective measures, a timeframe for their implementation and a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  6. Further requests the State Party to expedite the development of the management plan and provide an electronic and three printed copies of this plan for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Requests furthermorethe State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
  8. Decides to retain the Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-14/38.COM/7A and WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: