student. Here for thirty-four years the aged and venerable father studied and wrote.
Driven from Rome by the bitterness of theological partisanship, his fiery spirit found rest
and employment in seclusion on the site of the cradle of the Christian faith. Here in his
cavern-home he fasted and prayed. But here, above all, he carried out and completed what
he had years before begun, the revision of the various versions of the Scriptures, and from
this dark cave proceeded that precious heritage of the Christian Church for all time, the Latin
version so well known as the Vulgate. Besides his great work he was ceaseless as a
pamphleteer. Epistles, tractates, commentaries issued with marvellous rapidity from the
Grotto of Bethlehem, till we possess one hundred and fifty epistles, sixteen treatises, thirteen
volumes of commentaries, besides his Latin version and his translation and continuation of
the History of Eusebius. Verily there were giants in those clays. Nor can we forget that
closing scene of all, which Domenichino has commemorated for all time in his immortal
picture, when the aged saint, with his mortal frame worn and exhausted by years and labours,
but rejoicing and triumphant in spirit, on the threshold of the next world receives the
communion and yields up the ghost.
We shall see as we travel through Judaea how potent was the influence and example of
St. Jerome in the caves and rock-hewn cells which fill the cliff sides of the Jordan Valley
and stud the rest of the country, the homes of the anchorites and the small religious
communities which sprang from Bethlehem, the faithful copyists of the austerities but not of
the activities of the mighty Latin father.
Not content, however, with the historical, the traditional has been largely drawn upon for
sacred localities. We leave the convent, and among the many little hillside caves, partly
natural and partly artificial, is one which in popular estimation is second only to the Grotto of
the Nativity. This is the Milk Grotto, of which an engraving is given (see page 135). It has
no special feature beyond the unusual whiteness of the soft chalk out of which it is excavated.
The story told is that here Joseph and the Virgin Mother concealed themselves and the
Divine Infant before their flight into Egypt from the fury of Herod, and that some drops
of the Virgin's milk gave the rock its peculiar whiteness. The place is consequently the
resort of numbers of pilgrims, drawn especially by the belief that the application of a fragment
of the rock will produce an abundant supply for any infant at the mother's breast. As the
rock is very soft, there is no difficulty in breaking off fragments, which are carried as precious
charms into all the Christian countries of the South and East.
As we descend into the valley, the corn-fields of Bethlehem, we are reminded by the peep
we have just had of the Mountains of Moab how near we are actually to the home of Ruth.
In the afternoon especially the western sun lights up the long distant line with a delicate
pink, which gives an impression of nearness wanting in the morning, when they loom grey in
front of the rising sun, or at noon, when there is generally a heat haze between us and them,
caused by the evaporation from the Dead Sea. Most travellers visit Bethlehem in the early
spring, long before the corn is ripe; but there are few parts of the country where the customs