Tragically, war brought the bells down from their steeples. Crusaders covered the bells in animal fat to preserve them and buried them deep beneath the ground beside the church, in anticipation of a Muslim army’s invasion. For centuries the bells remained hidden, forgotten beneath the earth.
Yet, in 1906, as the Franciscans, who help serve as custodians of the Church of the Nativity, were making repairs to their compound, the bells were finally unearthed.
Now, Americans can come to see the bells and be a part of their centuries-long story at the Museum of the Bible.
The bells’ journey to America is itself a testament to the progress that three Christian faiths — Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Armenian Christianity — have made in coming together over their shared care for the Church of the Nativity.
“That wasn’t always a cordial relationship,” Kloha explained. But, over the centuries, the three faiths “have realized that to care for something like this and to welcome … masses of pilgrims, they really need to work together.” All three faith traditions had to approve of the bells’ journey before they could come to America.
“We’re very honored,” Kloha told CNA.
Tickets to the Museum of the Bible will allow entry to the exhibit.
As Kloha explained, this is the only opportunity to see the bells in America, as it is their very first — and only — trip outside the Holy Land.
The Museum of the Bible, which opened in Washington, D.C., in 2017, attracts visitors from across the nation and the world. With seven floors of interactive permanent and special exhibits, the museum immerses visitors in the Bible. Charlotte Clay, the museum’s director of marketing and communications, told CNA: “Our mission is to invite everyone to engage with the transformative power of the Bible.”
Peter Pinedo is a DC Correspondent for CNA. A graduate of Franciscan University, Peter previously worked for Texas Right to Life. He is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.