Europe

Italian firm restoring Nativity Church: Like touching heaven

  • Giammarco Piacenti speaks at the Foreign Press Club about the restoration of the Bethlehem Nativity church during a press conference in Rome, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity's holiest sites. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

    Giammarco Piacenti speaks at the Foreign Press Club about the restoration of the Bethlehem Nativity church during a press conference in Rome, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity's holiest sites. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)  (The Associated Press)

  • Giammarco Piacenti speaks at the Foreign Press Club about the restoration of the Bethlehem Nativity church during a press conference in Rome, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity's holiest sites. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

    Giammarco Piacenti speaks at the Foreign Press Club about the restoration of the Bethlehem Nativity church during a press conference in Rome, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity's holiest sites. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2016 file photo, restoration experts work on the the rooftop of the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Italian firm restoring one of Christianity's holiest sites _ the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem _ says Monday Jan. 9, 2017, it's more than halfway finished with the 14 million-euro project, which has already uncovered a Crusades-era mosaic angel hidden under plaster. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2016 file photo, restoration experts work on the the rooftop of the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Italian firm restoring one of Christianity's holiest sites _ the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem _ says Monday Jan. 9, 2017, it's more than halfway finished with the 14 million-euro project, which has already uncovered a Crusades-era mosaic angel hidden under plaster. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)  (The Associated Press)

The Italian firm restoring one of Christianity's holiest sites — the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem — says it's more than halfway finished with the 14 million-euro project, which has already uncovered a Crusades-era mosaic angel hidden under plaster.

Piacenti SpA, a family-run conservation firm from the Tuscan town of Prato, won the contract to restore the biblical place of Jesus' birth and began work in 2013 alongside Palestinian workers.

The overhaul became necessary after UNESCO listed the site as endangered, with its leaky roof, rotting wood beams and centuries of built-up candle wax blackening the brilliant mosaics ringing the interior.

Piacenti CEO Giammarco Piacenti said Monday the work is among the most satisfying of the restorers' careers because they are "touching heaven with their fingers."