Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

Palestine
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Housing
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Degradation of the architectural complex of the Church of the Nativity

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Degradation of the architectural complex of the Church of the Nativity
  • Development pressure
  • Tourism pressure
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
  • Degradation of the architectural complex of the Church of the Nativity;
  • Development pressure;
  • Tourism pressure.
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Drafted; proposed for adoption in the draft Decision below

Corrective Measures for the property

Drafted; proposed for adoption in the draft Decision below

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures
Drafted; proposed for adoption in the draft Decision below
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2015

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

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 25 February 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report; which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/documents The State Party also submitted in November 2014 progress reports on the restoration of the Church of the Nativity.

  • The first phase of the restoration of the Church of the Nativity started in September 2013. As additional funds were acquired, further phases of work on the Narthex and its Eastern Wooden Door, and on murals, plasterwork and external facades were added. The whole project is now due for completion in December 2016. Repairs to the roof trusses and cover boards have been completed and the roof lead replaced. “Ancient” wooden timbers from Italy were used to replace defective roof structures. Details are provided on investigative surveys that have been undertaken including dendrochronology and radio-carbon dating of the roof timbers.
  • A Conservation Plan was included as an Annex. This includes a list of relevant charters, general conservation principles, and preliminary steps, such as characterisation, structural analysis, and documents to be produced. This is a generic conservation approach rather than a Conservation Plan that is specific to the Church of the Nativity.
  • A Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in danger (DSOCR) and corrective measures are submitted, in agreement with the State Party, for approval by the World Heritage Committee.
  • Guidelines for a Management Plan have been agreed. A Management Unit was put in place in December 2014; its first task is to complete the Management Plan.
  • In order to control development within the buffer zone, Regulatory Bylaws for the Historic Centre in Bethlehem and for Traditional Buildings were adopted in September 2014. A Manual for the Rehabilitation of the Historic Town is also under preparation. Further Regulatory Bylaws will be produced on a 70-metre belt beyond the buffer zone to ensure visual corridors in the wider setting of the property.
  • A Marketing Management Plan is being planned for the Pilgrimage Route. Work is also underway to prevent traffic along the pilgrimage route and to restore its façades and paving.
  • A tunnel under Manger Square is being considered in order to provide an alternative route for vehicles that cross the square. Once conceptual designs have been drawn up, these and impact assessments will be submitted for review. Currently there is no funding for this project.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

Considerable progress has been made with the roof restoration and this is now substantially complete.

Although a Conservation Plan document has been submitted, this is more of a generic conservation approach rather than a document that justifies specific interventions within the restoration work of the Church of the Nativity.  It is now too late for such a document to be produced, as the main decisions on the restoration have been made and the work undertaken. It remains unclear how the very detailed surveys and analysis that were undertaken were used as a basis for deciding on specific interventions. Although extensive surveys of the roof timbers have produced evidence for structures dating back to the 14th century, it is not clear from the documents provided which of these have been retained or repaired, nor where “ancient” timbers imported from Italy were inserted. Given the extreme significance of the Church of the Nativity, and the particular importance of its roof, a more detailed level of specification should have been provided, based on a summary and review of existing knowledge, in order that there was a clear rationale and documentation for how each of the trusses and purlins were conserved.  Such an approach would have provided an understanding of the precise dating of each timber and of the overall authenticity of the roof.  It is suggested that a record now needs to be provided retrospectively.

Therefore, it should be noted that, if an extension of the project to encompass further work on murals, facades and the Narthex is envisaged, it should be preceded by the preparation of a comprehensive conservation plan, on the basis of due analysis and studies, which is submitted for review.

A DSOCR and corrective measures have been agreed between the State Party and the Advisory Bodies, and it is suggested that these should be recommended for approval.  The danger to the property was not defined in the Committee decision at the time of inscription or in the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) agreed by the Committee in 2012, and thus has to be inferred from the Nomination dossier and the ICOMOS evaluation. It is suggested that the danger should be considered to be the lack of repair and conservation of the roof structure of the Church of the Nativity and the consequent threat to the roof timbers, roof covering, and the interior wall surfaces from water ingress.

The new Regulatory Byelaws for the Historic Centre of Bethlehem and those proposed for the wider setting are to be welcomed, as is the aim to reduce traffic from the Pilgrimage Route. Proposal for a possible tunnel under Manger Square is preoccupying and does need to be submitted for review at the earliest possible conceptual level.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7A.28
Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) (C 1433)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.5, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes that considerable progress has been made with the conservation of the roof of the Church of the Nativity;
  4. Also notes with concern that no specific conservation strategy was set out to justify precise intervention on the roof timbers, based on analysis and review of all the evidence gathered from surveys and research, before work was undertaken, as envisaged in the corrective measures;
  5. Requests the State Party to prepare, retrospectively, documentation on each of the roof timbers, that shows the recent interventions in relation to evidence of age and materials, in order to understand the authenticity of what is now in place, and the chronology of the roof elements;
  6. Also requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory bodies, a comprehensive conservation plan for the murals, the facades and the Narthex should any works be foreseen thereon ;
  7. Adopts the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and corrective measures, as follow:
    1. Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger:

      Completed conservation and repair of the roof structure of the Church of the Holy Nativity

    2. Corrective measures:
      1. Complete a full investigative survey of the historic timbers and lead work of the roof, identifying the age and historical significance of the various component parts.
      2. Develop a Conservation Plan that synthesis the conclusions of the detailed investigative survey into a clear statement of the significances of the various elements of the roof within a comprehensive conservation philosophy for the roof restoration project.
      3. Prepare a detailed project specification for the roof repairs that allow a full understanding of which elements of the roof will be maintained, which repaired and which replaced.
      4. Undertake the roof repair project, including stabilising the vaults of the Narthex, and document its interventions.
    3. Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures:

    [to be submitted]

  8. Calls upon the international community to support the State Party in the implementation in the above-mentioned corrective measures;
  9. Urges the State Party to continue pursuing the implementation of the corrective measures and to submit a timetable for their full implementation by 1 February 2016 for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  10. Welcomes the introduction of Regulatory Bylaws for the Historic Centre of Bethlehem and their proposed development for the wider setting;
  11. Further notes the aim to free the Pilgrimage Route from traffic through diversions, car parks and possibly a tunnel under Manger Square, and also urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, concept proposals of the tunnel at the earliest opportunity, and before plans are finalised or approved;
  12. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  13. 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.
39 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of the World Heritage in Danger

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 39 COM 7A.38)
  • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 39 COM 7A.39)
  • Belize, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Decision 39 COM 7A.18)
  • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosi (Decision 39 COM 7A.44)
  • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.1)
  • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 39 COM 7A.45)
  • Côte d'Ivoire, Comoé National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.2)
  • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 39 COM 7A.3)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.4)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.5)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.6)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.7)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 39 COM 7A.8)
  • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 39 COM 7A.24)
  • Ethiopia, Simien National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.10)
  • Georgia, Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery (Decision 39 COM 7A.40)
  • Georgia, Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (Decision 39 COM 7A.41)
  • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 39 COM 7A.20)
  • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 39 COM 7A.15)
  • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 39 COM 7A.25)
  • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 39 COM 7A.26)
  • Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 39 COM 7A.27)
  • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 39 COM 7A.11)
  • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 39 COM 7A.21)
  • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 39 COM 7A.22)
  • Niger, Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 39 COM 7A.12)
  • Palestine, Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Decision 39 COM 7A.28)
  • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 39 COM 7A.29)
  • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 39 COM 7A.46)
  • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 39 COM 7A.47)
  • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.13)
  • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 39 COM 7A.42)
  • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 39 COM 7A.16)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 39 COM 7A.30)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 39 COM 7A.31)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 39 COM 7A.32)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 39 COM 7A.33)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 39 COM 7A.34)
  • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 39 COM 7A.35)
  • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 39 COM 7A.23)
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 39 COM 7A.43)
  • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 39 COM 7A.14)
  • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 39 COM 7A.17)
  • Venezuela, Coro and its Port (Decision 39 COM 7A.48)
  • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 39 COM 7A.37)
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7A.28

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7A.5, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes that considerable progress has been made with the conservation of the roof of the Church of the Nativity;
  4. Also notes with concern that no specific conservation strategy was set out to justify precise intervention on the roof timbers, based on analysis and review of all the evidence gathered from surveys and research, before work was undertaken, as envisaged in the corrective measures;
  5. Requests the State Party to prepare, retrospectively, documentation on each of the roof timbers, that shows the recent interventions in relation to evidence of age and materials, in order to understand the authenticity of what is now in place, and the chronology of the roof elements;
  6. Also requests the State Party to provide to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory bodies, a comprehensive conservation plan for the murals, the facades and the Narthex should any works be foreseen thereon ;
  7. Adopts the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and corrective measures, as follow:
    1. Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger: 
      Completed conservation and repair of the roof structure of the Church of the Holy Nativity
    2. Corrective measures:
      1. Complete a full investigative survey of the historic timbers and lead work of the roof, identifying the age and historical significance of the various component parts.
      2. Develop a Conservation Plan that synthesis the conclusions of the detailed investigative survey into a clear statement of the significances of the various elements of the roof within a comprehensive conservation philosophy for the roof restoration project.
      3. Prepare a detailed project specification for the roof repairs that allow a full understanding of which elements of the roof will be maintained, which repaired and which replaced.
      4. Undertake the roof repair project, including stabilising the vaults of the Narthex, and document its interventions.
    3. Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures:  [to be submitted]
  8. Calls upon the international community to support the State Party in the implementation in the above-mentioned corrective measures;
  9. Urges the State Party to continue pursuing the implementation of the corrective measures and to submit a timetable for their full implementation by 1 February 2016 for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  10. Welcomes the introduction of Regulatory Bylaws for the Historic Centre of Bethlehem and their proposed development for the wider setting;
  11. Further notes the aim to free the Pilgrimage Route from traffic through diversions, car parks and possibly a tunnel under Manger Square, and also urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, concept proposals of the tunnel at the earliest opportunity, and before plans are finalised or approved;
  12. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016;
  13. 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.
Report year: 2015
Palestine
Date of Inscription: 2012
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Danger List (dates): 2012-2019
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


top