About Church of the Annunciation – Nazareth
The Church of the Annunciation, often called the Basilica of the Annunciation, is located in Nazareth on the site where it is believed that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was to miraculously conceive the son of God. Known to Christians as the Annunciation, it’s a place of great importance – particularly in Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
History of the Church of the Annunciation
The first church was established on this site sometime around 400AD: the precise site of the Annunciation is disputed, with Greek Orthodoxy believing it the visitation happened whilst Mary was drawing water from a spring in Nazareth.
When the Roman Empire became Christian under Emperor Constantine, churches were established in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, marking the Annunciation, the Nativity and Jesus’ tomb respectively.
During the Crusades, a second church was constructed over the ruins of the previous Byzantine era church. This was never finished – Saladin’s arrival in Nazareth in 1187 put a halt to expansion, although he did allow Franciscans to remain to oversee services at the church. This church was destroyed in 1260 by the Mamluk army.
Franciscans remained in Nazareth regardless, and kept some form of devotion and service alive, despite persecution. In the 17th century, they were formally allowed in the city, and a church was constructed in 1730.
The basilica today is a 20th century one, built in the 1960s in a style known as Italian Brutalism. The new basilica is one of the largest Christian churches in the Middle East, and remains under the watchful eye of the Franciscan friars. Today, it’s an important place of pilgrimage for many
The Church of the Annunciation today
The church is huge: the cupola dominates Nazareth’s skyline, and it’s an undeniably impressive site. The interior is dark and gloomy: it contains the originally cave where the Annunciation is believed to have taken place.
Unsurprisingly, this is a place of reverence, and it can get busy. Confessions can be made every day between specific hours, and regular prayers and masses are held in a variety of languages. Entrance is free: you should dress respectfully.
Getting to the Church of the Annunciation
The church is in central Nazareth, just off Paulus ha-Shishi St, on the fringes of the Old City: multiple buses stop right outside the church, and there’s parking around the city. Nazareth itself is about 20 minutes north of Afula, or 45 minutes east of Haifa.
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