In the afternoon we visited the much more crowded Church of the Nativity, which is controlled by the Greek Orthodox communion and is therefore notable for its extensive iconography. The birthplace of Jesus is marked by a silver star with 14 points. (14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 more from David to the exile, and a final 14 from the exile to Jesus, says St. Matthew.) Close by the birth cave is a slightly larger one where a manger might have stood.
Adjacent to the Nativity Church is the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, which stands over the cave in which St. Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate. And we finished the day by visiting the fields in which then shepherds were thought to have been abiding. Why? Because the caves provided convenient shelters for man and beast alike.
None of these locations are historically certain, but all have been places of pilgrimage for 1700 years. We are privileged to follow in the footsteps of these earlier pilgrims.