Fodor's Expert Review Church of St. Catherine
Built by Franciscans in 1882, Bethlehem's Roman Catholic parish church incorporates remnants of its 12th-century Crusader predecessor. Note the bronze doors with reliefs of St. Jerome, St. Paula, and St. Eustochium. From this church, the midnight Catholic Christmas mass is broadcast around the world. Steps descend from within the church to a series of dim grottoes, clearly once used as living quarters. Chapels here are dedicated to Joseph, the Innocents killed by Herod the Great, and to the 4th-century St. Jerome, who wrote the Vulgate—the Latin translation of the Bible—supposedly right here. St. Catherine is adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, and accessible by a passage from its Armenian chapel. Next to the church is a lovely cloister, restored in 1949. A small wooden door (kept locked) connects the complex with the Grotto of the Nativity. Call ahead to check hours, as they change frequently.