The dramatic circumstances of the first public proclamation of the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:8-14) could not have failed to impress the pilgrims who came to the Holy Land in the C4. They were anxious to see the spot where the angels appeared to the shepherds. In 384 in a valley near Bethlehem Egeria was shown the church called ‘At the Shepherds’; she reported ‘a big garden is there now, protected by a neat wall all around, and also there is a very splendid cave with an altar’. Arculf (670) adds that it was ‘about a mile to the east of Bethlehem’.
Today two sites near Bethlehem are pointed out as the Shepherds’ Field, one belonging to the Greek Orthodox, the other to the Roman Catholics. Both have been excavated.
Khirbet Siyar el-Ghanem (Roman Catholic)
The Franciscans consecrated this site by the erection of a tent-like chapel in 1954. The ruins on the other side of the parking-lot from the chapel are from the Byzantine period. The first monastery was founded at the end of the C4 AD on a site occupied during the C1 AD by nomadic shepherds. The monastery was enlarged during the C6; the apse of the church being reconstructed with stones from the original polygonal apse of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem.
Source: The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy- O’Connor