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

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 identified

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

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

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://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 https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/

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.

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

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.

Decision Adopted: 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.

Decision Adopted: 39 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-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: