A 1930s shot of the church’s interior (Photo: Library of Congress)

The Church of the Nativity has been standing for a long, long time.  It’s supposed to mark the spot where Jesus was born and was first built in the fourth century, on a commission from Constantine the Great, who was a relatively early convert to Christianity and the first Roman emperor to embrace the religion. 

Over the centuries, though, the church has fallen into disrepair: as the Washington Post wrote in 2014 the “roof leaks, the ancient rafters are rotting and water drips onto the 12th century mosaics.” Since then, a renovation project that will cost millions of dollars has begun, in an effort to save the church.

In the course of their work, the crews renovating the building recently found what Fox News calls a “mysterious religious artifact.” It’s some sort of icon, “of great religious and historical value,” according to the Palestinian government. It was found near a window, under a sheet of plaster that was torn away during the repair work. It’s made of brass, silver, shells and stone, the Times of Israel reports.

For now, that’s about all we know about it—there haven’t been pictures released or any more analysis of its significance. But it’s certainly intriguing.

Bonus finds: An unexpected pearl.

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.