BETHLEHEM — Palestinian officials say what they believe to be a new baptismal font has been discovered at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, allowing for more studies about Jesus’ traditional birthplace.
Ziad al-Bandak, head of a Palestinian presidential committee leading the church renovation, said Saturday that international experts are arriving in the biblical West Bank town to examine the receptacle.
“Another circular baptismal font was discovered hidden inside the existing octagonal baptismal font,” al-Bandak said, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Al-Bandak described the Byzantine font as a “magnificent” discovery. He said the stone used for the font appeared to match the stone from the church’s columns.
The church’s footprint dates from the 4th century, but it has undergone numerous renovations over the years.
In 2013, UNESCO declared the church a World Heritage site and a restoration project was launched five years ago to overcome decades of neglect at the historic church. Al-Bandak said a ceremony to mark the completion of restoration work, planned for November, was being delayed until summer 2020.
The church is a focal point for visitors to the Holy Land, especially around Christmas.