top of page

Jerome’s Grotto

Table of Contents Next Page

The Birthplace of the Latin Bible

This site is always part of our live Octagon Tour.

Location - The Church of the Nativity

Map Coordinates - 31.704261, 35.207363


Most visitors to the Holy Land don’t know the story of Jerome, but He is one of the most influential characters in the primitive history of the church.

This tour is basically a continuation of our tour of the Church of Saint Catherine, which describes the back story of Jerome. Please read this section to get the complete story of Jerome.

Under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the grotto of Saint Jerome – one of the greatest scholars in Christian history, and one of the most voluminous Christian authors in the ancient world. Jerome became a follower of Jesus during his teenage years. When he was a young man in his twenties he was already quite educated in classic literature, having studied Latin, Hebrew and Greek. 

Saint Jerome.

The Main Room.

In the windows near the floor level you can view the remains of an ancient cemetery. In the center of the floor is the monogram “JHS”. This is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “Jesus Hominum Salvator”, which means Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind.

The Saint Joseph Chapel - Bethlehem’s Famous Son.

Up the stairs there is a chapel dedicated to Joseph (seen below), the husband of Mary. Joseph was originally from Bethlehem (see Luke 2:4), so having a chapel dedicated to him here is understandable.

The Chapel of Saint Joseph.

The Franciscan Holy Innocents Chapel.

This room shown above is the Catholic Chapel of the Holy Innocents, dedicated to the baby boys who were killed in the Bethlehem massacre (see Matthew 2:16). You can see part of this ancient cemetery on three sides of the chapel. These gravesites could be as old as the first century, since they were under the ancient church that was built here in the fourth century. 

The Tomb of Saints Paula and Eustochium.

Among the women first discipled by Jerome were a wealthy aristocrat named Paula, and her children, which included two daughters, Blaesilla and Eustochium. 

Paula is known to have started many churches in the Bethlehem area, including the one at the ancient site of Jesus’ infant home – a church that today we call The Milk Grotto.

The Tomb of Eusebius of Cremona.

Opposite the Saint Paula and Eustochium tomb is the tomb of Eusebius of Cremona, the man who worked closely with Jerome in building a monastery here in Bethlehem.

The Tomb of Jerome.

At his death Jerome was buried on this site (see his tomb below), but after about 700 years his remains were eventually moved to the Church of Saint Mary Major in Rome. 

The original tomb of Saint Jerome.

Jerome’s Study.

This part of the cave (shown below) was Jerome’s study. In his day there were no lights and no windows. Jerome did almost all of his work by candlelight. 

Jerome’s study with a mosaic of himself, Paula, Eustochium and Eusebius of Cremona.

Throughout his entire life, Jerome was haunted by the memory of Blaesilla’s death. He suffered the humiliation of the rumors of his infidelity with Paula. He was rejected, scorned, and run out of Rome by the Latin clergy, and he lived out his life banished to a cave in Bethlehem.

But that was merely the end of the beginning. It was in this little room that Jerome translated all of the Hebrew Old Testament, and all of the Greek New Testament into Latin – the language of the entire western Roman Empire. This became what we know today as the Latin Vulgate (a copy is shown below), and this translation of the Bible has been heard by more Christians than any other version of the Bible in history. In the Catholic church, every sermon up until the 20th century was preached out of the Vulgate. Every hymn was composed by a musician who was reading Jerome’s Bible at the time. Every religious work of art from Michelangelo to Leonardo DaVinci was painted by someone who was inspired by this book.

The Latin Vulgate

Jerome also made Bethlehem a great monastic center, where thousands of monks lived, worked, and ministered to the community around them.

Jerome could not have foreseen this, but God’s Word, translated through him would ultimately influence billions of people all over the world. By the light of a flickering candle, the influence that he had over the next 16 centuries would be staggering. Today Jerome is remembered as one of the four original men who were given the title Doctor of the Church.


After all that Jerome endured, it is from this dark little cave that God used this chastened exile to forever change the course of human history.

Table of Contents Next Page

bottom of page