The Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field

//The Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field

The Greek Orthodox Shepherds’ Field

This site is located in a small valley with olive trees, some dating back 2000 years. The underground church, which was originally the cave of the shepherds, is dedicated to the Mother of God. Local Christians call the site Der Er-Ra’wat, meaning Convent of the Shepherds. The site is revered as the spot where an angel, surrounded by a supernatural light, appeared to the bewildered shepherds and proclaimed: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’. Three of the shepherds to whom the angel announced the birth of Christ were buried in the west side of the church; their tomb is still visible today. The shepherds had as a provision of their last will and testament that they be buried in the place where they heard the angelic proclamation.

Over this cave, St. Helena built a church and beside it a convent for nuns, called the Convent of the Gloria in Excelsis. Today, only the crypt of the church remains, which can be reached by descending a flight of twenty-four steps. It is a dark, subterranean chapel, which contains an altar at the east with a number of paintings and a small apse behind it. The roof is a cut stone vault of the usual Roman or Byzantine type. Some fragments of a mosaic pavement can be seen on the floor and feint traces of paintings on the walls. An opening high up in the west end of the north wall leads into a second vaulted crypt of unknown purpose. It was probably used at one time as a cistern, but has since been converted into a chapel commemorating the appearance of the angels to the shepherds. The few ruins in the vicinity probably belong to the Church of the Gloria in Excelsis.

2018-07-29T15:47:59+00:00