Saint Nicolas Church for the Greek Orthodox
St Nicolas is the patron saint of Beit Jala, and as a result Saint Nicolas Church is one of the most important in the city. Underneath the church is a cave in which St. Nicolas is believed to have lived in during the 5th century AD in order to worship close to the site of Jesus’ birth. The cave currently houses an icon of St. Nicolas and an eternal flame that remains lit in honor of him. An ancient monastery was built on the site as early as 200 AD, and was destroyed and rebuilt many times. The last monastery was built during the Ottoman period by Karj monks from Russia. In 1921 the old church building was torn down and the current building erected by the local populace, finished in 1925. The church shows off much of the work of Beit Jala’s famous stone masons, including a magnificent Iconostas, considered a masterpiece of stone iconography.
The Cremisan Monastery and Winery
The Cremisan Monastery and Convent is a monastery run by the order of the Salesians of Don Bosco which was built in 1885 over the ruins of a 7th century Byzantine monastery. The beautiful terraced grounds provide a great place for picnics overlooking Beit Jala and Bethlehem and walks in the shade of olive trees. The monastery also houses a winery, Cremisan Cellars, which uses local Palestinian grapes and is the only winery in all of Palestine. Be sure to visit their wine cellar, filled with aging casks of wine and brandy, and the adjoining shop to sample some the product. Opening hours vary, so it is a good idea to call ahead to check.