The grotto where Christ was born was well-known by early Christians, as well non-believers. Some texts from that era refer to the site as "the place where Christ was born, He who Christians admire and adore.”
Emperor Constantine built the first basilica in the 4th Century, but it was eventually sacked and destroyed. Two centuries later, Justinian had another church built on the same spot, which survived several invasions and remains until today.
Under the main altar, stands a small chapel where a silver star on the floor marks the place where Jesus came into the world.
Since 1317, the Franciscan Order looks after the basilica, along with Greek, Syriac and Armenian Orthodox Christians.