The main street leading from the Church of Nativity, Bethlehem circa 1880 (http://www.old-picture.com/american-adventure/Bethlehem-Street.htm)
One of the early pilgrims to Bethlehem was St Jerome who visited here while on a pilgrimage around the Holy Land, before taking up permanent residence in 386 AD. While living in Bethlehem he set up a monastery and pilgrim hostel to help provide hospitality to the pilgrims who were visiting here.
Bethlehem was a small quiet place and was described circa 1231 AD as having only one street. This must have provided pilgrims with a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. The pilgrims who travelled here often came on donkeys as did the English pilgrim Margery Kempe in 1413 AD ( Chareyron 2005, 102). In the late medieval period pilgrims entered the church in a processional order signing hymns and carrying a lighted candle (ibid). The pilgrim Jean Thenaud arrived here bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and was greeted outside the shrine by candle-sellers . He describes his visit as follows
Pilgrims entered “a small room with a vault of fine marble and mosaic”. There beneath the rock, was the place where the Lord was laid, the crib for the ox and the ass, and the rock itself the place for the nails that held the rings for tethering the animals and the hole through which the star that guided the Magi was said to have disappeared and the place where they worshipped Him (Chareyron 2005, 103).