The Nativity Stones were excavated in 1963 from the Manger Room of the holy Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They are the only stones ever authorized to be removed from this sacred site, excavated just a few feet from the star that marks the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
The hallowed story of the Nativity Stones begins over 2000 years ago in the holiest place on Earth – the recognized birthplace of Christ, in the Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Christians came to worship at the Nativity Cave soon after Jesus’ death. In 325 A.D. Empress Helena of Constantinople erected a church above this very cave. The church is the oldest active Christian church in the world and hundreds of thousands of the faithful come to visit the church every year.
During a visit to the Manger Room in the Cave of the Nativity in 1963, Stanley Slotkin, a philanthropist and amateur archaeologist, noticed a portion of the cave’s inside wall being removed. Bethlehem’s mayor and Slotkin’s host Elias Bandak explained that this one-time excavation would allow another exit for the thousands of devoted visitors who came to the Cave of the Nativity each year.
Watching the manger wall being dismantled made Slotkin reflective about the historical and religious symbolism of the cave. The wall witnessed the grace of His presence during the moment of Jesus’ miraculous birth. He was overwhelmed by the emotional power of this humble room and the magnitude of the event that had taken place here.
Slotkin thought of the Christians back home and around the world who would surely cherish a piece of this holy site. He asked the Mayor if it would be possible to have the stones from the Manger Room for his philanthropic work. The Mayor agreed and sent the stones to Slotkin in the United States.
This unexpected gift was placed into well-meaning hands; initially, the Nativity Stones were donated to various non-profit organizations, such as the American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and American Lung Association for fundraising. Slotkin also gave crosses containing precious pieces of the stones to the sick and terminally ill in hospitals throughout the United States to provide comfort and as a way of reinforcing their faith in Jesus.
More recently, at Slotkin’s request, his family has made the Nativity Stones available to a wider audience by creating heirloom jewelry holding a sacred Nativity Stone. Each stone offers a unique way for Christians to maintain and share the presence of Jesus in their daily lives.
The Nativity Stones were certified by Elias B. Bandak, Mayor of Bethlehem, and Father Economies George Bandak, high priest of the Church of the Nativity. During the 2000 Jubilee, The Nativity Stones Collection was selected by the Vatican Treasury to become one of only a few items allowed to display the official Jubilee 2000 emblem. This great honor culminated in the dedication of a plaque to the Nativity Stones at the Vatican presented by Cardinal Ruini, then Vicor of the Diocese of Rome.
The Nativity Stones Honored at The Vatican
Rare and limited in number, an authentic Nativity Stone is a beautiful symbol of Christian history celebrating the birth of Jesus. A Nativity Stone heirloom is a treasure to cherish and share with your loved ones for generations to come.
Diagram of the Manger Room in the Cave of the Nativity. This illustrates the Nativity Stones excavation site, just a few feet from the Fourteen Pointed Star commemorating the actual place of Christ's birth.
The Birth of Christ in the Cave of the Nativity
Resting in the Judean hills a few miles south of Jerusalem lays the small, unassuming town of Bethlehem, which bore witness to one of the most important events in human history - the birth of Jesus Christ.
On a winter’s night over 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled the road to Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus ordered a world census to be taken and all subjects were required to return to the place of their birth. Despite Mary’s advanced pregnancy they journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph’s birthplace. Joseph searched urgently for lodging as it was Mary’s time to give birth, but all of the inns were filled. In his desperation Joseph finally found a cave at the edge of town to shelter his wife. It was here, in the Cave of the Nativity, where the Christ Child was born.
Early Christians flocked to worship at The Cave of the Nativity soon after His death. In 325 A.D. Byzantine Emperor Constantine, along with his mother Empress Helena, officially recognized the site of Christ’s birth, constructing churches to commemorate the three principle events of Jesus’ life. One of the churches was the Church of the Nativity, which was erected over the cave where Jesus was born. The cave was then enclosed in an eight-sided structure and the church was built above.
Despite the following years of neglect, wars and destruction, the Church of the Nativity has always drawn faithful pilgrims from around the world. It is the oldest Christian Church in the world and continues to be a sacred symbol to the devout. It was designated an endangered World Heritage site by UNESCO.
In 1963, there was a one-time excavation to allow another exit for the thousands of visitors who come to the Cave of the Nativity each year. During that excavation a portion of a wall just a few feet from the fourteen pointed star commemorating the actual place of Christ’s birth was removed.
The stones from that wall – the Nativity Stones - witnessed the birth of Jesus. These are the very stones cradled in the Nativity Stone heirlooms.