Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth
Archeological investigation has shown that the veneration of the Grotto of the Annunciation dates back to the third century, when Jewish Christians built a first modest church (the Synagogue Church) modeled on the synagogues of the day.The second church, a small building with a circular apse and an atrium at the west end, was built in the fourth century for the Empress Helen, Constantine the Great's mother, by a converted Jew called Joseph of Tiberias. An inscription records that this church was enlarged at some time before 427 by Conon of Jerusalem. On the south side of the church was a small monastery, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614.The third church was built in the early 12th century by Tancred, Prince of Galilee, and was on a considerably larger scale than its predecessors. It was a three-aisled basilica 75m/246ft long by 30m/98ft wide. This church stood until 1263, when it was destroyed by Baibars, who spared only the grotto. Thereafter there was no church on the site until the Franciscans gained permission to build a new church in 1730. In contrast to the earlier churches, this was not oriented east-west but north- south, so that the choir stood directly over the grotto. The facade was added only in 1877. In 1955 the Franciscan church was pulled down to make way for the fifth church on the site. This church, consecrated in 1969, is the most important modern church in Israel and the largest built in recent years.The design by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio was based on two principles. He wanted to present in visual form the history of the place from its earliest days and to depict the catholic nature of the Roman church; and, using modern means, he succeeded most convincingly in realizing this concept. The lower church, offering a view of the lower and older levels of the structure, illustrates the historical continuity of the site, while the upper church shows the universality of the church in its decoration, which was the work of artists from many different countries.The plan was based on the Crusader church. The side walls were built on top of the surviving courses of the older walls, and the apses at the east end of the Crusader church were incorporated in the new building. Only at the west end is the modern church shorter than its predecessor. Like the older church, the new one is a three-aisled basilica, but its distinctive characteristic is that it combines the basilican plan with a centralized structure. In the floor of the church is a large octagonal opening through which there is a view of the lower level and the older structures below - the Grotto of the Annunciation and the remains of the earliest churches on the site. Over this area, which can also be seen from the upper church, is the dome.
The entrance gateway of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth leads into a courtyard with colonnades along the west and south sides. The west front of the church has ornamental friezes and a large relief of the Annunciation. The three bronze doors were the work of Roland Friederichsen of Munich. On the central door, top left, is the Nativity of Christ; bottom left the Flight into Egypt and Jesus as a boy; top right the Sermon on the Mount and the Crucifixion; bottom left the Baptism of Christ.On the south doorway are scenes from the life of the Virgin by the American sculptor Frederick Shrady.
The west doorway of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth leads into the lower church. On the north side, to the left, is the wall of the Crusader church, articulated by semi-columns, with the wall of the modern church on top of it. Going east along the nave, we come to the octagon under the dome and can look down to the earlier levels. To the left is the Grotto of the Annunciation, with an altar bearing the inscription "Verbum hic caro factum est" ("Here the Word was made flesh": John 1,14). The copper canopy over the grotto was the work of a Belgian craftsman. The columns immediately in front of the grotto are ascribed to the third century Synagogue Church. In the center of the octagon is the modern altar. To the right can be seen the side wall and circular apse of the second church (fourth- fifth centuries).Farther east, beyond the octagon, are the three apses of the third (Crusader) church. Note particularly the richly decorated 12th century capitals in the right-hand apse.Returning to the west end, we go up a staircase into the upper church. Like the lower church, this has aisles flanking the nave and an octagonal opening through which there is a view of the Grotto of the Nativity. The light dome over the octagon is in the form of a lily (an old symbol of the Virgin). The floor of the upper church is of inlaid marble (by Adriano Alessandrini), with scenes relating to the Virgin and to Marian councils. At the east end is the presbytery. Behind the white altar is a mosaic representing the Church, with Christ flanked by Mary and Peter and by saints. To the left is a chapel dedicated to saints of the Franciscan order, to the right the Chapel of the Sacrament.On the walls of the upper church are images of the Virgin from all over the world. There are mosaics presented to the church by Australia, Britain, Cameroun, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan and Mexico; ceramics from Canada, Poland and Portugal; a fresco from Argentina; a work in steel and silver from North America, a wood-carving from Venezuela.
Leaving the upper church of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth by the north doorway, we come into a courtyard, on the right of which is the baptistery (by Bernd Hartmann and Ima Rochelle). Below it are excavations of ancient Nazareth. Going north through the courtyard, we see on the right St Joseph's Church and come to the exit (to left).
Church of the Annunciation Pictures
Map of Nazareth Attractions