Church of Saint Catherine

Destinations in Bethlehem

The Church of Saint Catherine is a Franciscan Catholic church, located north of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Because of the status quo that governs Christian community relations in the Holy Places in the Holy Land since 1852, the Franciscans share only the Nativity Cave in the nearby Nativity Church, so except for special events their worship is held in St. Catherine’s Church. 

The History of the Church of Saint Catherine

So In the 12th century, a Crusader monastery was established where is today the Church of Saint Catherine; and at some point, before the 15th century; a small chapel was built on the site of the monastery’s meeting hall. Then in 1882, the chapel was replaced by the present church, built in the Gothic Revival style. The construction of the Church of Saint Catherine was funded by donations made to it by Franz Josef I; Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Simultaneously with the construction of the church, a pilgrims’ hostel (Casa Nova) was established next to it; which also houses, among other things, the offices of the Latin Quarter in Bethlehem.

Shopping in Bethlehem

The cloister of the ancient monastery was not destroyed, and the entrance to the Church of Saint Catherine is made through it. In 1949 the cloister was renovated by the Italian architect Antonio Berlusconi. Until 1999, the interior of the Church of Saint Catherine was decorated with wheels that symbolized the wheel of refraction on which St. Catherine was tormented. Towards the year 2000 and Pope John Paul II’s visit to Israel; the church was renovated and the wheels were removed. In addition, the structure was extended to the east, beyond the main altar.

The Structure of the Church  

So the entrance to the Church of Saint Catherine is through the cloister on its west side. In the center of the cloister stands a statue of Hieronymus (St.Jerome) standing on a pillar. Above the front door of the church is a Latin inscription saying: “SANCTAE CATHERINAE VIRGINI ET MARTIRI DICATUM” (“Dedicated to the Holy, Virgin and Martyr Catherine”), and above it stands a statue of Mary. The church is rectangular and built in the shape of a basilica, with three naves.

Jerusalem and Bethlehem Tour
In This Photo: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Church of Saint Catherine’s ceiling is designed in the shape of a cross vault, and its gilded arches are carried on pillars adorned with Corinthian capitals. In the eastern wall of the church, above the organ, is a large stained glass window, depicting the birth of Christ. A passage used only during special religious events, such as Christmas, connects the church to the Christmas cave, and a staircase leads from the church to the underground burial caves below the compound.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

Did you know the Hoopoe is Israel's national bird?! For more cool info about Israel, join our ever growing community and get exclusive travel tips, and giveaways!

Eshtaol Forest


Ashkelon National Park

Ashkelon National Park is home to many historic sites and some spectacular natural scenery. Just southwest of the city of Ashkelon!

The Italian Hospital in Jerusalem

The Italian Hospital in Jerusalem is a monument to the return of the city from a marginal city to the center of international interest.

Chapel of the Milk Grotto

The Chapel of the Milk Grotto is where according to Christian tradition, the Holy Family hid in a cave during the massacre of the innocent by Herod.

Masada National Park

Masada National Park is one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions. Located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea; the ...

Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery

Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem is the Christian pantheon of scholars and explorers of the Land of Israel.

Saint Joseph Church

Saint Joseph Church is located in the heart of Nazareth. According to medieval tradition, it was built on the site of the workshop of Joseph.

Tel Dor National Park

Let's Get to know Tel Dor National Park! The park is a unique spot along Israel's shoreline with a breathtaking view and rich history!

Emmaus Nicopolis

Emmaus is a town mentioned in the Gospel of Luke of the New Testament. Luke reports that Jesus appeared, after his death and resurrection, before ...

Susita National Park (Hippos)

Perched on top of a hill, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, there you have Susita National Park! The site protects the important archaeological site known ...


Tabgha is where Jesus fed the multitudes and appeared to his disciples for the third time in the sea of Galilee. It's a must-see site indeed!

Need help?