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the milk grotto

Near the Nativity Church in Manger Square is this modest, serene chapel. According to tradition, a few milky drops fell on the ground as Mary was nursing Jesus, making the rocks white. Before making their way to Egypt, it is thought that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus sought safety in a church.

The Margaret Sitti Mariam Chapel, often known as “the Milk Grotto,” is a stunning chapel located in the center of Bethlehem, just a short distance from Manger Square. The Holy Family is claimed to have sought refuge in the Milk Grotto during the Slaughter of the Innocents before fleeing to Egypt. Mary and Joseph made the decision to remain there until they were certain that King Herod’s soldiers wouldn’t harm their newborn infant, Jesus.

History background 

According to legend, the infant Jesus and his family sought safety in the Grotto during the Massacre of the Innocents before escaping to Egypt. The term “Grotto” stems from the myth that while The Virgin Mary was breastfeeding Baby Jesus, a drop of her milk accidentally dropped down the cave floor, rendering it white. To protect the Grotto, a church was erected above it in the fifth century. In the courtyard of the current chapel, remnants of a vibrant mosaic floor from that era may be observed.

Women without children of all faiths have been to the Grotto for generations to make fertility-related prayers. Women believe that by adding the soft white chalk from the grotto to their food and praying to Our Lady of the Milk, their milk production will rise or they will be able to conceive. The Grotto’s “milk powder” and prayers have a powerful effect, as seen by the rows of framed letters and baby images from all over the world. The powder may only be purchased on-site at the temple; it cannot be ordered or imported.

In the fifth century, a church was erected on top of the grotto. It is thought that the ruins of a stunning mosaic discovered in the grotto’s courtyard date from this time.

The legend that a drop of Mary’s milk accidentally fell upon the cave floor and rendered it entirely white is the source of the grotto’s name. The interior of the grotto is covered with a milky white rock that possesses mystical properties. Women without children from all religions have long traveled to the Milk Grotto to make a pilgrimage and beg for the gift of progeny. Some pilgrims will bring the stone powder with them and distribute it to others who are unable to conceive.


According to Christian belief, before escaping to Egypt during the Massacre of the Innocents, the Holy Family took sanctuary there. The name comes from the legend that the cave’s floor became white when a “drop of milk” from the Virgin Mary dropped on it.

Some people go to the area, which has three distinct caves, in the hopes of curing infertile couples since it is said that the shrine is a spot where prayers for children are magically fulfilled.


Monastery of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

The chapel is joined to a monastery run by the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Since 2016, when a “Queen of Peace” tabernacle was constructed in their Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, the red-and-white clothed nuns have been practicing continual Eucharistic adoration and have been unceasingly praying for peace.

The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land received the tabernacle as a gift from the Polish community’s “Queen of Peace.” The Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at the Milk Grotto finally received the piece, which was initially intended for the Fourth Station of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem but was transferred there in 2016 because they were better equipped to assure the ongoing prayer for peace.

The closed tabernacle depicts earthly Jerusalem, with the twelve Apostles and the twelve Tribes of Israel surrounding the image of Jesus on the cross, while the open shrine represents heavenly Jerusalem, which is brightly shining and flanked by a pair of olive trees that symbolize the two witnesses of the Apocalypse. The tabernacle was designed by Polish artist Mariusz Drapikowski. Their branches are covered in a variety of crosses, signifying the diverse Christian vocations that are sprouting from the common Christian root. The monstrance, which depicts a Madonna bearing the Eucharistic Christ, who is shown as a huge host, in her hands, is located in the center of the open shrine.


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