Under the altar of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the oldest and most important churches in Rome, is an underground chamber whose crowning glory is a golden reliquary, before which pilgrims rarely maintain their composure. Inside lies Jesus’ manger – one of the most important relics of the Catholic world.
Tradition says that Christians guarded the Holy Manger, which was sent to Rome for safekeeping in the seventh century, following the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land. Since then, it has been the property of the Vatican (even though, geographically speaking, it lies outside the Vatican’s territory). But now, a little more than 2,000 years after the infant Jesus slept in it (according to Christian tradition), the manger is returning to the Middle East – or to be more precise, a small part of it is. This Friday, a small piece of wood from the manger will be put on display to the faithful in Jerusalem. After that, it will be permanently relocated to Bethlehem.
From Fox News:
Christians are celebrating the return to the Holy Land of a tiny wooden relic they believe was part of Jesus’ manger nearly 1,400 years after it was sent to Rome as a gift to the pope.
The thumb-sized relic was unveiled to worshippers Friday at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem for a day of celebrations and prayer. On Saturday, it will be sent to its permanent home at the Franciscan Church of St. Catherine, next to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank holy site where tradition says Jesus was born. Its arrival will coincide with Advent, a four-week period leading up to Christmas.