During renovations at Bethlehem's Church of Nativity, which many believe is built on the site where Jesus was born, workers discovered a mysterious icon that they claim is of "great religious and historical value," the Daily Mail reports. So far, no images of the icon, a painting, which was unearthed during the first phase of the church's restoration, have been released, but it is said to contain brass, silver, shells and stones.
The restoration began in 2013 and after two years of grueling work, experts completed the initial phase last week, according to The Times or Israel. Experts claim that the building's fragile roof has been repaired and centuries of dust have been removed in order to improve the appearance of Crusader-era mosaics.
Ziad al-Bandak, who is leading the committee in charge of the restoration, calls the work "revolutionary."
"For the first time you can see, when you go up, mosaics really magnificent and beautiful and unique in the whole world," he said. In an earlier interview, al-Bandak claimed that another $11 million is needed for the project and in response, the Palestinian Authority has launched a campaign to raise funds.
"He told me from the beginning: 'Even if you don't have all the money to go ahead, start. This is a holy place and money will come,'" said Mahmoud Abbas, president of the self-government body.
"We are very proud of it because when we protect our national heritage, our history, we protect our future," al-Bandak said.
In regards to the religious icon, the plaster covering its exterior has been removed and experts continue to examine its significance, Discovery reports.