“The roof timbers of the church are rotting, and have not been replaced since the 19th century.

Rainwater seeps into the building and damages not only its structural elements but also its 12th-century wall mosaics and paintings. Due to this influx of water, there is also an ever-present chance of an electrical short-circuit and fire.”

Site where Jesus is said to have been birthed

Last year, after Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox officials who jointly manage the site agreed under pressure from the Palestinian Authority to repair the building, Busuioc and Italian experts completed a high-resolution, diagnostic laser scan of the church’s walls, floors and roof in January.

“Since then, the collected data has been shared with other experts and exhaustively analyzed to create a work plan for rehabilitating the famed pilgrimage site — the most important tourist attraction in the Palestinian territories,” reported Boswell.

A statue of St. George damaged by leakage