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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Mary of Nazareth International Center

Israel

Mary of Nazareth International Center

The Mary of Nazareth centre in the heart of Nazareth (© cimdn.org)

 

Modern multimedia technology portrays the Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history at the Mary of Nazareth International Center, just across the street from the towering basilica that commemorates her agreement to become the mother of the Son of God.

A 55-minute, wide-screen presentation, offered in 10 languages, gives visitors a sweeping perspective of Mary’s place in Scripture.

The content is divided into four parts, each viewed in a separate room: from Creation to Mary’s childhood; from the Annunciation to Jesus’ birth; the 30 years in Nazareth and Jesus’ public life; and from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

The presentation, using still and movie photography, is firmly grounded in Scripture, with no fewer than 224 biblical passages quoted.

Other exhibits focus on Mary as a Jewish woman, Mary in the Qur’an (which has more references to her than in the Bible), Mary as a source of Christian unity, and Mary in the tradition of the Eastern Christian churches.

Mary of Nazareth International Center

The multimedia presentation at the Mary of Nazareth centre includes clips from the 2006 film The Nativity Story (© cimdn.org)

There is also a world map of Marian shrines, and a terraced garden with plants that are mentioned in the Bible.

The centre, opened in 2011 in a renovated building from the Ottoman era, also contains a significant archaeological discovery — the remains of an ancient house that archaeologists believe is from the Jewish village of Nazareth at the time of Jesus and Mary.

 

Ecumenical support for centre

The impetus for a Nazareth venue celebrating Mary’s role in salvation history — God’s actions through human history to fulfill his purpose of saving mankind — came from the Association Marie de Nazareth, a Catholic group based in France, which also raised the funding.

The association promotes Christian belief through modern audio-visual techniques such as podcasts, websites, television documentaries and media centres.

The Mary of Nazareth centre is run by the Chemin Neuf (“New Way”) Community, another French Catholic group, which has an ecumenical ministry in which Christians from different denominations take part.

Mary of Nazareth International Center

Chapel in Mary of Nazareth centre, with Church of the Annunciation seen at left (© cimdn.org)

Though relations between Christian churches in the Holy Land are not always harmonious — scuffles with broomsticks are not unknown at sacred sites — the centre has received the support of the 12 major Christian churches of the Holy Land, including Latin and Eastern Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans.

“Never in history have all the Christian churches of the Holy Land — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant — united in such a way to support the same project,” said Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the Latin (Catholic) patriarchal vicar in Nazareth.

House from time of Jesus

Workers preparing the centre were digging up an old courtyard when they uncovered the walls of an ancient house. Archaeologists then found two rooms, a courtyard with a rock-hewn cistern in which rainwater was collected from the roof, and fragments of clay and chalk vessels.

They also found a pit whose entrance was apparently camouflaged, presumably used by Jews to hide from Roman soldiers during the First Jewish-Roman War in AD 67.

The Israel Antiquities Authority declared the remains were of the first residential building dating to the time of Jesus ever discovered in Nazareth.

Mary of Nazareth International Center

Remains of house from time of Jesus, at Mary of Nazareth centre (© cimdn.org)

Excavation director Yardenna Alexandre said: “The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period.”

Archaeologist Stephen Pfann, president of the University of the Holy Land, said: “It’s the only witness that we have from that area that shows us what the walls and floors were like inside Nazareth in the first century.”

Nazareth at the time probably had a population of between 400 and 1200, so it might have had as few as 100 houses. The remains discovered were only 50 metres from the Church of the Annunciation, where tradition places the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, so it is almost certain that Jesus knew the house and might even have visited it.

The remains of the house have been conserved within the Mary of Nazareth centre.

 

Administered by: Chemin Neuf Community

 

Tel.: +972 4 646-1266, +972-52 447-6083

 

Open: Mon-Sat 9.30-12am, 2.30-5pm; closed Sunday (private bookings available at any time).

 

References

Anonymous: Mary Leads us to Jesus (Association Marie de Nazareth brochure, undated)
Kauffmann, Joel: The Nazareth Jesus Knew (Nazareth Village 2005)

 

External links

Mary of Nazareth Center
Mary of Nazareth (Association Marie de Nazareth)
For the Very First Time: A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus was Exposed in the Heart of Nazareth (Israel Antiquities Authority)
First Jesus-Era House Discovered in Nazareth (Diaa Hadid, Associated Press)

Nazareth

Israel

Church of the Annunciation

Church of St Joseph

Mary’s Well and Church of St Gabriel

Nazareth Village

Church of the Synagogue

Mount Precipice

Franciscan Museum

Church of Jesus the Adolescent

Mary of Nazareth International Center

Nazareth

Modern Nazareth (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

 

Nazareth in Galilee is celebrated by Christians as the town where the Virgin Mary, aged around 14 years, agreed to become pregnant with the Son of God.

It also became the home town of Jesus, Mary and her husband Joseph after the Holy Family returned from fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod the Great’s soldiers.

Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament and has the reputation of being an insignificant backwater — epitomised by Nathanael’s retort when told that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

But being hidden from the public eye, nestled in a hollow among the hills of Galilee, it provided an ideal setting for the years of preparation Jesus needed as he “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour” (Luke 2:52).

It was also a place from which a young boy could watch the world go by: South of the village, a vantage point overlooked the Plain of Jezreel, where traders and travellers passed along a great highway between Babylon and Cairo.

 

Church of the Annunciation

Nazareth

Grotto of the Annunciation (Seetheholyland.net)

Modern-day Nazareth is dominated by the towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation. It is an Arab city, mainly Muslim, with an adjoining Jewish upper city of Nazareth Ilit, but a profusion of churches, monasteries and other religious institutions make it a major centre of Christian pilgrimage.

The massive two-storey Church of the Annunciation, in strikingly modern architectural style and colourfully decorated, is the largest Christian church in the Middle East.

Its cupola, surmounted by a lantern symbolising the Light of the World, stands directly over a cave in the crypt that is traditionally held to be the home of the Virgin Mary. Here, it is believed, the archangel Gabriel told Mary she would become the mother of the Son of God.

The grotto is flanked by remnants of earlier churches on the site. Its entrance is sometimes closed by a protective grille.

The entrance to the lower church is from the west, where above the triple doorway the façade of cream limestone carries a quotation in Latin: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

A spiral stairway at the main entrance leads to the upper church. This is the parish church for the Catholic community of Nazareth (which is why the inscriptions on the ceramic Stations of the Cross are in Arabic). The main entrance for the upper church is on the northern side.

Over a door on the southern side is a statue of Mary aged 14, the age she is believed to have been at the time of the Annunciation, welcoming all who come to visit her home.

 

Church of St Joseph

Next to the Church of the Annunciation, on the northern side, is the Church of St Joseph (also known as the Church of the Nutrition and Joseph’s Workshop).

This is a solid and unpretentious building, very much in the shadow of the imposing Annunciation basilica — just as St Joseph himself lived in the shadow of Jesus and Mary.

Stairs lead down to a crypt, where a 2-metre square basin cut into the rock, its floor decorated in a black-and-white mosaic, is believed to be a pre-Constantinian baptismal site.

Further steps and a narrow passage lead to an underground chamber. A pious tradition from the 17th century, with no foundation, holds that this chamber was Joseph’s carpentry workshop.

Even if the site was the home of the Holy Family, it is unlikely to have had a carpentry workshop in the modern sense. The Gospels use the Greek word tekton, meaning builder or artisan, to describe Joseph. He most likely worked with stone more than with wood, since stone was the common building material.

The apse of the church has three noteworthy paintings: The Holy Family, The Dream of Joseph, and The Death of Joseph in the Arms of Jesus and Mary.

Mary’s Well

Nazareth

Mary’s Well, Nazareth (Seetheholyland.net)

Some 400 metres north of the Church of the Annunciation, just off the main street, is Mary’s Well. Fed by the main freshwater spring in the little village, it would have been visited daily by Mary, often accompanied by her young son.

According to the Greek Orthodox, whose Church of St Gabriel is adjacent, this is the true site of the Annunciation. But both traditions can be accommodated by an account in the early Protoevangelium of James.

This apocryphal document says the archangel Gabriel first approached Mary as she went to draw water at the well. Frightened by the stranger’s approach, the young girl ran back to her home. There the archangel appeared again and this time delivered his message.

The present water-trough structure is a reconstruction carried out in 2000. Water is piped from the spring, about 200 metres to the north.

Water from the spring can be seen in St Gabriel’s Church, in a well-like structure in the crypt. The stonework dates from the time of the Crusaders, who also built a church on this site. St Gabriel’s, surrounded by a high wall, contains many interesting icons and frescoes.

 

First-century house

In December 2009 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a house from the time of Christ in the centre of Nazareth. It said this was “the very first” residential building found from the old Jewish village.

Small and modest, the house consisted of two rooms and a courtyard with a cistern to collect rainwater.

The remains of the house were found during an excavation prior to construction of the Mary of Nazareth International Center, next to the Church of the Annunciation. The remains are conserved and displayed in that building.

In 2015 the remains of a first-century building within the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, was suggested as the house where Byzantine church builders believed Jesus spent his childhood.

 

Additional sites in Nazareth

Nazareth has several other sites of interest to pilgrims:

Nazareth Village: Life in the time of Jesus has been authentically recreated on the site of a 1st-century working terrace farm, just 500 metres south-west of the Church of the Annunciation.

Visitors can see and hear the animals, smell and taste the food, see donkeys pull a plough and hear in-character villagers talk about daily life and their work at the wine and olive presses, on the threshing floor and in the weaving room.

Besides watchtowers, a spring-fed irrigation system and an ancient quarry, the village has an accurate replica of a 1st-century synagogue.

Synagogue Church: The dome and bell towers of this Melkite Greek Catholic church rise over the old market of Nazareth, up a street almost due east of St Joseph’s Church.

Nazareth

Synagogue Church, Nazareth (Seetheholyland.net)

The church incorporates a Crusader building believed to be on the site of the synagogue in which Jesus preached. This simple stone room with a plain altar evokes the Gospel account (Luke 4:16-30) in which Jesus read the Messianic passage in Isaiah 61 (“The spirit of the Lord is upon me”) and proclaimed that he was the fulfilment of this promise.

The initial response was favourable, but when Jesus indicated that the proclamation of the Good News was to include the gentiles, his hearers were enraged and tried to throw up off a high cliff.

Mount Precipice: South of Nazareth, on Mt Kedumim, is the cliff on which it is supposed the attempt was made to throw Jesus to his death. A road leads to the site and the view over the Jezreel Valley and Mount Tabor is spectacular.

On the mountain is a ruined church called Our Lady of the Fright Chapel. It commemorates the tradition that Mary, the mother of Jesus, fainted with fear as the crowd led her son to the cliff. But the Gospel says Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:30).

Franciscan Museum: A courtyard on the northern side of the Church of the Annunciation provides access to a museum, on a lower level, displaying artefacts dating back to the 1st century. Of particular interest are five superbly carved capitals, discovered buried in a cave in 1908. Carved in France, they were to have crowned columns at the entrance of the Crusader church. They arrived after the Crusader kingdom had been defeated, so they were hidden.

Church of Jesus the Adolescent: This attractive French Gothic-style church, atop the western Nabi Sain ridge, offers a fine view over Nazareth’s rooftops and the Galilean hills. Above the altar is an impressive marble statue of Jesus as a boy of about 16.

Mary of Nazareth International Center: Just across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, it uses multimedia techniques to show the place of the Mother of Jesus in Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions (open daily 9.30-12am, 2.30-5pm except Sunday).

 

In Scripture:

The Annunciation: Luke 1:26-38

The Holy Family settles in Nazareth: Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39-40

Jesus preaches in the synagogue: Luke 4:16-30; Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6;

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”: John 1:45-46

 

Open:

Church of the Annunciation: 8am-6pm

Church of St Joseph: 8am-6pm

St Gabriel’s Church: 8am-noon. 1-5pm; telephone first on Sunday

Synagogue Church: 8am-5pm (4pm Oct-Mar); closed Sunday

Nazareth Village: 9am-5pm (last tour begins 3.30pm); closed Sunday

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Dark, Ken: “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?”, Biblical Archaeology Review, March-April 2015
Doyle, Stephen: The Pilgrim’s New Guide to the Holy Land (Liturgical Press, 1990)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Israel Antiquities Authority: “A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus was Exposed in the Heart of Nazareth”, media release, December 23, 2009
Joseph, Frederick: “Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth”, Holy Land, spring 2005
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Smith, David: “Where it happened”, The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, December 2007
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

External links

Nazareth (Nazareth Cultural & Tourism Association)
Nazareth (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Nazareth (Wikipedia)
Nazareth (Christus Rex)
Nazareth (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Grotto of the Annunciation (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
St Gabriel Church (BibleWalks)
Mount Precipice (BibleWalks)

Mount Zion

Jerusalem

Mount Zion

Mount Zion, crowned by the Dormition Abbey (© Deror Avi)

Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is the broad hill south of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter.

Also called Sion, its name in Old Testament times became projected into a metaphoric symbol for the whole city and the Promised Land.

Several important events in the early Christian Church are likely to have taken place on Mount Zion:

• The Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, both believed to have been on the site of the Cenacle;

• The appearance of Jesus before the high priest Caiaphas, believed to have been at the site of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu;

• The “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary, believed to have occurred at the site of the Church of the Dormition.

• The Council of Jerusalem, around AD 50, in which the early Church debated the status of converted gentiles (Acts 15:1-29), perhaps also on the site of the Cenacle.

The mountain that moved

In the Old Testament period, Zion was the eastern fortress that King David captured from the Jebusites and named the City of David (2 Samuel 5:6-9).

A psalmist described Mount Zion as God’s “holy mountain, beautiful in elevation . . . the joy of all the earth” (Psalm 48).

And again, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Psalm 125).

Ironically, by the time this psalm was composed, the name of Mount Zion had already moved from its original location at the Jebusite fortress — and would move again.

First, perhaps at the time Solomon built his Temple, the Temple Mount came to be called Mount Zion. Then in the first century AD, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the name was transferred to its present location across the Tyropoeon Valley.

 

Early Christians built synagogue-church

Mount Zion

Hagia Sion sign at Dormition Abbey (Glenn Johnson / Wikimedia)

In the time of Christ, Mount Zion was a wealthy neighbourhood, densely populated and enclosed within the city walls.

There was also a community of Essenes, a group who lived a strict interpretation of Mosaic Law. They are better known for their community at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

The first-century Christians met on Mount Zion, where they built a Judaeo-Christian synagogue-church that became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Over the centuries a succession of churches were built on the site and later destroyed. These included the great Byzantine basilica Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), known as the “Mother of all Churches” — which covered the entire area now occupied by the Church of the Dormition, the Cenacle and the Tomb of David.

 

David’s tomb is empty

The Old Testament (1 Kings: 2:10) records that King David was buried in the city of David, which was on the original Mount Zion.

King David's Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

King David’s Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

Because the name of Mount Zion had moved to its present location, as described above, Christian pilgrims in the 10th century developed a belief that David’s burial place was there too.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present memorial on Mount Zion called the Tomb of King David. However, three of the walls of the room where its empty cenotaph stands are apparently from the synagogue-church used by the first-century Judaeo-Christians.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims.

 

Architects beheaded for excluding Mount Zion

The respect with which Muslims held King David is illustrated by a legend relating to the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls by the Turkish conqueror Sulieman the Magnificent in the mid-16th century.

As the story goes, the sultan was furious when he discovered that the new walls did not encompass Mount Zion, leaving the Tomb of David unprotected.

He summoned the two architects responsible for the project and ordered that they be beheaded. Two graves in the inner courtyard of Jaffa Gate are said to be those of the architects.

Another place of interest on Mount Zion is the grave of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved nearly 1200 Jews in the Holocaust and has been declared a Righteous Gentile. The grave is in the Catholic cemetery near Zion Gate.

Related sites

Cenacle

Church of the Dormition

Church of St Peter in Gallicantu

Tomb of King David

Schindler’s grave

 

In Scripture:

The Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:1—17:26

The coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4

Jesus appears before Caiaphas: Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:12-14, 19:24

The first Church Council of Jerusalem: Acts 15:1-29

 

 

 

References

Anonymous: “Christian Mount Sion”, Holy Land, spring 2003
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Pixner, Bargil: “Church of Apostles found on Mt Zion” (Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1990)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)

Ein Karem

Israel

 

Church of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

Church of the Visitation

Ein Karem

Mary meets Elizabeth, at the Church of the Visitation (Seetheholyland.net)

Christian tradition places the birth of John the Baptist — who announced the coming of Jesus Christ, his cousin — in the picturesque village of Ein Karem 7.5km south-west of Jerusalem.

Luke’s Gospel tells of the circumstances of John’s birth (1:5-24, 39-66).

The angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly priest Zechariah while he was serving in the Temple and told him that his wife Elizabeth was to bear a son. Zechariah was sceptical, so he was struck dumb and remained so until the baby John was born.

In the meantime, Gabriel appeared to the teenage Virgin Mary in Nazareth, telling her that she was to become the mother of Jesus. As proof, he revealed that Mary’s elderly cousin Elizabeth was already six months’ pregnant.

Mary then “went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country” — a distance of around 120km — “where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” (Luke 1:39-41)

 

Two sites for two houses

The two main sites in the “Judean town” of Ein Karem are linked to the understanding that Zechariah and Elizabeth had two houses in Ein Karem (also known as Ain Karim, Ain Karem, ’Ayn Karim and En Kerem).

Their usual residence was in the valley. But a cooler summer house, high on a hillside, allowed them to escape the heat and humidity.

The summer house is believed to be where the pregnant Elizabeth “remained in seclusion for five months” (Luke 1:24) and where Mary visited her.

The house in the valley is where John the Baptist was born. Here, also, old Zechariah finally regained his power of speech after his son was born, when he obediently wrote on a writing tablet that the baby’s name was to be John.

Ein Karem is still a tranquil place of trees and vineyards, but the municipality of Jerusalem has spread to incorporate the former Arab village. It is now a town of Jewish artisans and craftspeople, but Christian churches and convents abound.

 

Church of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

Ein Karem

Church of St John the Baptist in the centre of Ein Karem (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

There are two churches of St John the Baptist in the town. Best-known is the Catholic Church of the Nativity of St John, identifiable by its tall tower topped by a round spire. It is also called “St John in the mountains”, a reference to the “hill country” of the Scripture.

The church combines remnants of many periods. An early church on this site was used by Muslim villagers for their livestock before the Franciscans recovered it in the 17th century. The Franciscans built the present church with the help of the Spanish monarchy.

The high altar is dedicated to St John. To the right is Elizabeth’s altar. To the left are steps leading down to a natural grotto — identified as John’s birthplace and believed to be part of his parents’ home.

A chapel beneath the porch contains two tombs. An inscription in a mosaic panel reads, in Greek, “Hail martyrs of God”. Whom it refers to is unknown.

The other church, built in 1894, is Eastern Orthodox.

 

Church of the Visitation

Ein Karem

Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem (Seetheholyland.net)

The Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth — depicted in mosaic on the façade — is commemorated in a two-tiered church, on a slope of the hill south of Ein Karem.

Completed in 1955 to a design by Antonio Barluzzi, the artistically decorated Church of the Visitation is considered one of the most beautiful of all the Gospel sites in the Holy Land.

This is believed to be the site of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s summer house, where Mary came to visit her cousin. On the wall opposite the church, ceramic plaques reproduce Mary’s canticle of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in some 50 languages.

In the lower chapel, a vaulted passage leads to an old well. An ancient tradition asserts that a spring joyfully burst out of the rock here when Mary greeted Elizabeth.

A huge stone set in a niche is known as the Stone of Hiding. According to an ancient tradition, the stone opened to provide a hiding place for the baby John during Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents — an event depicted in a painting on the wall.

 

Mary’s Spring and the Desert of St John

In a valley on the south of the village is a fresh-water spring known as Mary’s Spring or the Fountain of the Virgin. Tradition has it that Mary quenched her thirst from this spring before ascending the hill to meet Elizabeth.

The water has become contaminated and is no longer safe to drink.

The spring gives the village its name — from the Arabic “ein” (spring) and kerem (vineyard or olive grove). Built over the spring is a small abandoned mosque, another reminder that this was once an Arab village.

South-west of Ein Karem, off Route 386, a Greek Melkite monastery and a Franciscan convent mark the Desert of St John, a site where John the Baptist is believed to have lived in seclusion.

 

In Scripture:

The birth of John the Baptist: Luke 1:5-24, 39-66

Mary visits Elizabeth: Luke 1:39-45

The Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: Visitation Church 972-2-6417291; St John’s Church 972-2-6323000

Open: St John’s Church, 8am-noon, 2.30-5.45pm (4.45pm Oct-Mar); Visitation Church, 8-11.45am, 2.30-6pm (5pm Oct-Mar)

 

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Kloetzli, Godfrey: “Ain Karim”, Holy Land, winter 2003
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Ain Karem: S. John and the Visitation (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum)
Ein Karem (Wikipedia)

Church of the Dormition

Jerusalem

Church of the Dormition

Dome of Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

The hill of Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, is dominated by the Church of the Dormition. The location is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died — or “fell asleep”, as the name suggests.

The fortress-like building, with a conical roof and four corner towers, stands south of the Old City’s Zion Gate. Nearby soars the bell tower of the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (formerly the Abbey of the Dormition), a Benedictine monastery.

During the Byzantine period, the Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), one of the three earliest churches in Jerusalem, stood on this site. Built by the Emperor Constantine, it was regarded as the Mother of all Churches. In AD 614 it was destroyed by the Persians.

 

Claims made for two cities

Two cities, Jerusalem and Ephesus (in present-day Turkey), claim to be the place where the Virgin Mary died. The Ephesus claim rests in part on the Gospel account that Christ on his cross entrusted the care of Mary to St John (who later went to Ephesus).

Church of the Dormition

Apostles at the death of Mary, in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

But the earliest traditions all locate the end of Mary’s life in Jerusalem, where the Tomb of Mary is venerated at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Accounts of Mary’s death in Jerusalem appear in early sources such as De Orbitu S. Dominae, Transitus Mariae and Liber Requiei Mariae. These books are described as apocryphal (meaning “hidden” or “secret”). Their authenticity is uncertain and they are not accepted as part of the Christian canon of Scripture.

But, according to biblical scholar Lino Cignelli, “All of them are traceable back to a single primitive document, a Judaeo-Christian prototype, clearly written within the mother church of Jerusalem some time during the second century, and, in all probability, composed for liturgical use right at the Tomb of Our Lady.

“From the earliest times, tradition has assigned the authorship of the prototype to one Lucius Carinus, said to have been a disciple and fellow labourer with St John the Evangelist.”

By the reckoning of Transitus Mariae, Mary would have been aged no more than 50 at the time of her death.

 

Early writers favour Jerusalem

The early sources are summarised in this way by the Catholic Encyclopedia:

“The apocryphal works of the second to the fourth century are all favourable to the Jerusalem tradition. According to the Acts of St John by Prochurus, written (160-70) by Lencius, the Evangelist went to Ephesus accompanied by Prochurus alone and at a very advanced age, i.e. after Mary’s death.

“The two letters B. Inatii missa S. Joanni, written about 370, show that the Blessed Virgin passed the remainder of her days at Jerusalem. That of Dionysius the Areopagite to the Bishop Titus (363), the Joannis liber de Dormitione Mariae (third to fourth century), and the treatise De transitu B.M. Virginis (fourth century) place her tomb at Gethsemane . . . .

“There was never any tradition connecting Mary’s death and burial with the city of Ephesus.”

 

Belief in the Assumption

The belief that the Virgin Mary was bodily assumed into heaven is mentioned in the above books and also in authenticated sermons by Eastern saints such as St Andrew of Crete and St John of Damascus.

The Assumption of Mary has been a subject of Christian art for centuries (and its feast day was made a public holiday in England by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century). It was defined as a doctrine of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

St John of Damascus describes the origin of this belief in these words:

“St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon [AD 451], made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas [who arrived late], was found empty; wherefrom the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”

The Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God on August 15, the same day that the Catholic Church and some Protestant churches celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

 

Land was given by sultan

Church of the Dormition

Mary and Jesus mosaic in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

The land on which the Church of the Dormition stands was given in 1898 by the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who presented it to the Catholic Church. Construction was completed in 1910.

Like the Crusader church that preceded it, the basilica is built on two levels with the high altar and monastic choir on the upper of these, and the crypt with its Marian shrine on the lower.

Light from several large windows pours into the upper level, and colourful wall mosaics depict events from Christian and Benedictine history.

High above the main altar is a mosaic of Mary and the infant Jesus. The Latin inscription below it is from Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Life-size statue of Mary in death

Church of the Dormition

Lifesize image of Mary in death, in the Church of the Dormition (Seetheholyland.net)

If the upper floor of the Church of the Dormition is luminous, the circular crypt seems totally shrouded when first entered.

In the centre, under a rotunda, is a simple bier on which rests a life-size statue of Mary, fallen asleep in death. The statue is made of cherry wood and ivory.

The dome above the statue is adorned with mosaic pictures of six women of the Old Testament: Eve, Miriam, Jael, Judith, Ruth and Esther.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the church was seriously damaged by military bombardment. During the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces took possession of the building and the Mother and Child mosaic in the apse received a barrage of machine-gun bullets from the interior of the church.

The Dormition Church has a fine organ, which is often used for concerts.

Related site:

Tomb of Mary

 

Administered by: Benedictine Order

Tel.: 972-2-5655330

Open: Mon-Fri 8.30-11.45am, 12.40-5.30pm; Sat 8.30-11.45am, 12.40-2.45pm, 3.30-5.30pm; Sun 10.30-11.45am, 12.30-5.30pm

 

References

 

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Maas, Anthony: “The Blessed Virgin Mary”, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Robert Appleton Company, 1912).
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Petrozzi, Maria Tereza: “The Place of Mary’s Dormition”, Holy Land, spring 2005
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (Dormition Abbey)
Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Church of the Annunciation

Israel

Church of the Annunciation

Church of the Annunciation (© Tom Callinan / Seetheholyland.net)

The towering cupola of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth stands over the cave that tradition holds to be the home of the Virgin Mary.

Here, it is believed, the archangel Gabriel told the young Mary, aged about 14, that she would become the mother of the Son of God. And here Mary uttered her consent: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The outcome of Mary’s consent is carved in Latin across the façade over the triple-doorway entrance: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The massive two-storey basilica, in strikingly modern architectural style and colourfully decorated, became the largest Christian church in the Middle East when it was completed in 1969. It contains two churches, the upper one being the parish church for Nazareth’s Catholic community.

The cupola, which dominates modern-day Nazareth, is surmounted by a lantern symbolising the Light of the World.

Entry is from the west, where signs indicate a route for visitors. On the cream limestone façade are reliefs of Mary, Gabriel and the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Above them is a bronze statue of Jesus.

Over a door on the southern side stands a statue of Mary aged 14, welcoming all who come to visit her home.

 

Grotto contains cave-home

Church of the Annunciation

Eucharist in front of grotto in Church of the Annunciation (Seetheholyland.net)

The lower level of the Church of the Annunciation enshrines a sunken grotto that contains the traditional cave-home of the Virgin Mary.

The cave is flanked by remnants of earlier churches on the site. Its entrance is sometimes closed by a protective grille. Inside the cave stands an altar with the Latin inscription “Here the Word was made flesh”.

To the left of the cave entrance is a mosaic floor inscribed with the words “Gift of Conon, deacon of Jerusalem”.

The deacon may have been responsible for converting the house of Mary into the first church on the site, around 427.

In front of the cave is another simple altar, with tiers of seats around it on three sides. Above it, a large octagonal opening is situated exactly under the cupola of the church.

Cupola represents a lily

The plan of two churches, one above the other and interconnected, was conceived by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio.

As well as preserving the remains of previous churches on the lower level, he allowed for the risk of earthquake by constructing the building in three separate sections of reinforced concrete.

Church of the Annunciation

Dome of Church of the Annunciation (Seetheholyland.net)

The soaring cupola represents an inverted lily opening its petals to the shrine below. The symbolism combines the lily, as an image of Mary’s purity, with one of the Semitic meanings of the name Nazareth, a flower.

A spiral stairway at the main entrance leads to the large and spacious upper church. This is the parish church for the Catholic community of Nazareth (which is why the inscriptions on the ceramic Stations of the Cross are in Arabic).

The main entrance of the upper church is on the northern side, leading off a large elevated square overlooking the valley of Nazareth.

Around the walls of the upper church are colourful representations of the Virgin Mary in a variety of materials, presented by many countries.

Behind the main altar is a huge mosaic, one of the biggest in the world, depicting the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”.

 

Excavations revealed early shrine

The first church on the site venerated as Mary’s home was built around 427. The Crusaders built a huge basilica on its ruins, but this too was destroyed when the Crusader kingdom fell in 1187.

In 1620 the Franciscans managed to purchase the site from the local Arab ruler, but it was a further 120 years before they were allowed to build a new church.

When that church was demolished to prepare for the modern basilica, extensive excavations took place. These revealed the remains of the ancient village of Nazareth with its silos, cisterns and other cave-dwellings.

The most sensational discovery was of a shrine or synagogue-church dating back to before the first church was built. Scratched on the base of a column appeared the Greek characters XE MAPIA, translated as “Hail Mary” — the archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary.

 

First-century house

In December 2009 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a house from the time of Christ, on a property next to the Church of the Annunciation.

Nazareth

First-century Nazareth house discovered in 2009 (© Assaf Peretz / Israel Antiquities Authority)

The authority described it as “the very first” residential building found from the old Jewish village.

Small and modest, the house consisted of two rooms and a courtyard with a cistern to collect rainwater.

The remains of the house were found during an excavation prior to construction of the Mary of Nazareth International Center. They are conserved and displayed inside that building.

Other sites in Nazareth:

Nazareth

Church of St Joseph

Nazareth Village

In Scripture:

The Annunciation: Luke 1:26-38

 

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-4-6572501

Open: 8am-6pm

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Doyle, Stephen: The Pilgrim’s New Guide to the Holy Land (Liturgical Press, 1990)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Israel Antiquities Authority: “A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus was Exposed in the Heart of Nazareth”, media release, December 23, 2009
Joseph, Frederick: “Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth”, Holy Land, spring 2005
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford
Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

 

External links

Nazareth (Custodia Terrae Sanctae)
Basilica of Annunciation (BibleWalks)
Nazareth (Christus Rex)
Nazareth (Nazareth Cultural & Tourism Association)
Nazareth (Wikipedia)
Nazareth (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Church of St Joseph

Israel

Church of St Joseph

Church of St Joseph, Nazareth (Seetheholyland.net)

A fond tradition asserts that the Church of St Joseph in Nazareth is built over the carpentry workshop of the husband of the Virgin Mary.

The church (also known as the Church of the Nutrition and the Church of Joseph’s Workshop) is a solid and unpretentious building. It stands very much in the shadow of the soaring cupola of the Church of the Annunciation on its southern side — just as St Joseph himself lived in the shadow of Jesus and Mary.

But there is no evidence that the cave over which the church is built was Joseph’s workshop. Even if this is the site of the Holy Family’s home, the cave is unlikely to have been a carpentry workshop in the modern sense.

The Gospels use the Greek word tekton, meaning builder or artisan, to describe Joseph. He most likely worked with both stone and wood, since stone was the common building material in the area.

Joseph’s work may have taken him away from his home. A likely place of employment was the Roman city of Sepphoris or Tzippori, which was being rebuilt by Herod Antipas at the time the Holy Family arrived from Egypt. The building site was a 50-minute walk from Nazareth.

 

Cave system under church

Church of St Joseph

Death of St Joseph, stained glass in Church of St Joseph (Seetheholyland.net)

The Church of St Joseph was built in 1914 on the remains of a Crusader church and over a cave system. The first mention of the site occurs in the work of a 17th-century Italian writer and Orientalist, Franciscus Quaresmius, who described it as “the house and workshop of Joseph”.

The apse of the church has three noteworthy paintings: The Holy Family, The Dream of Joseph, and The Death of Joseph in the Arms of Jesus and Mary.

A stairway in the church descends to a crypt where caverns can be seen through a grille in the floor. Seven further steps lead to a 2-metre square basin or pit with a black-and-white mosaic floor. This is believed to have been a pre-Constantinian Christian baptistry, perhaps used as early as the 1st century.

Beside the basin, a flight of rough steps leads down to a narrow passage which, after turning 180 degrees, opens into an underground chamber 2 metres high.

Off this are openings to grain silos and water cisterns, cut into the soft limestone rock by early dwellers. Such underground repositories were typical of ancient Nazareth.

Other sites in Nazareth:

Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation

Nazareth Village

In Scripture:

Joseph takes Mary as his wife: Matthew 1:18-25

Administered by: Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land

Tel.: 972-4-6572501

Open: 8am-6pm

 

References

Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Doyle, Stephen: The Pilgrim’s New Guide to the Holy Land (Liturgical Press, 1990)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Joseph, Frederick: “Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth”, Holy Land, spring 2005
Kilgallen, John J.: A New Testament Guide to the Holy Land (Loyola Press, 1998)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

St Joseph Church (BibleWalks)
Nazareth (Nazareth Cultural & Tourism Association)
Nazareth (Wikipedia)
Nazareth (Catholic Encyclopedia)
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