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Milk Grotto and The Church of Catherine: Refuge From the Slaughter of the Innocents and Their Tomb

This grotto, with a Franciscan chapel built above it, is considered sacred because tradition has it that the Holy Family took refuge here during the Slaughter of the Innocents, before their flight into Egypt. Tradition has it that while Mary was nursing Jesus here, a drop of milk fell to the ground, turning it white.

MILK GROTTO AND THE CHURCH OF ST. CATHERINE: REFUGE FROM THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS AND THEIR TOMB

Milk Grotto and the Church of St. Catherine are two holy places in Jerusalem connected with the nativity of Christ. Milk Grotto was the refuge of the Holy Family from the wrath of King Herod – Slaughter of the Innocents. The tomb of the infants killed was located at the Chapel of the Innocents in the Church of St. Catherine.

The Church of Nativity is the traditional site of the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

THE MILK GROTTO

The Milk Grotto (Magharet Sitti Mariam, "Grotto of the Lady Mary") is a serene grotto only a few minutes' walk from Manger Square in Bethlehem.

This grotto, with a Franciscan chapel built above it, is considered sacred because tradition has it that the Holy Family took refuge here during the Slaughter of the Innocents, before their flight into Egypt. Tradition has it that while Mary was nursing Jesus here, a drop of milk fell to the ground, turning it white.

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ENTRANCE OF THE MILK GROTTO

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STAIRS INTO THE MILK GROTTO

The irregularly shaped grotto is hollowed out of the soft white rock. A church was built here by the 5th century, and mosaic fragments on the terrace of the grotto, with geometrical motifs and crosses, are thought to belong to this time.

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THE ALTAR

Both Christians and Muslims believe scrapings from the stones in the grotto boost the quantity of a mother's milk and enhance fertility. Mothers usually mix it in their drinking water; would-be mothers place the rock under their mattress.

There is also an old tradition that identifies this as the burial site of the young victims of Herod's Slaughter of the Innocents. There is a chapel dedicated to them in the caves beneath the Church of St. Catherine.

CHURCH OF ST. CATHERINE

Church of St. Catherine is a Catholic Church and Franciscan monastery connected to the mostly Orthodox Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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STATUE OF ST. CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA

The church is said to be built on the site of Christ's appearance to St. Catherine of Alexandria and his prediction of her martyrdom (c.310 AD). She is buried on Mt. Sinai.

The church is first recorded in the 15th century and may incorporate the chapter house of the 12th-century Crusader monastery that stood on the site. Traces of a 5th-century monastery associated with St. Jerome also exist here.

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STATUE OF ST. JEROME

St. Catherine's Church was enlarged in 1881 with funds from the Emperor of Austria.

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STAINED GLASS OF NATIVITY OVER THE ENTRANCE TO ST. CATHERINE CHURCH

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ENTRANCE TO THE FRANCISCAN MONASTERY

The modern basilica has three aisles. To the north and west is the active Franciscan monastery. Outside the west door of the church is a pleasant cloister, restored in 1948 by A. Barluzzi using columns and capitals of the 12th-century monastery. The cloister includes a modern statue of St. Jerome; the church facade is topped with a statue of St. Catherine.

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THE TOMB OF ST. JEROME

Just to the right upon entering the church, steps descend to more caves beneath the Church of the Nativity. Here rock cuttings and ancient tombs with various modern additions commemorate various people and traditions:

• Chapel of the Innocents - the tomb of infants slain by Herod the Great (Matt. 2:16)

• Chapel of St. Joseph - dedicated to the husband of Mary

• Tombs of the St. Paula and her daughter Eustochium, who made a pilgrimage with Jerome c.485 and later settled in Bethlehem

• Tomb of St. Jerome, a church father from Italy who translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate)

• Study of St. Jerome, where Jerome is said to have written and worked on his translation

• Tomb of Eusebius - Jerome successor as head of the monastery

It is unlikely that these locations are authentic, although Paula, Eustochium and Jerome are known to be buried somewhere in the caves beneath the Church of the Nativity.

Reference:

Milk Grotto, Bethlehem - Atlas Tours

St. Catherine of Alexandria - Catholic Encyclopedia

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-milk-grotto.htm

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/bethlehem-st-catherine.htm

St. Jerome - Catholic Encyclopedia

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Comments (2)

Ron, you are obviously a very well learned man. Have you been to these remarkable places yourself? Wonderful writing...I'm out of votes although I don't know how...I haven't voted for anyone today...thank you once again.

I haven't been in these places before, but I have been doing heavy research since my school days, thanks a lot Beverly.

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