Nazareth Tourist Attractions
Situation and characteristicsNazareth (Hebrew Nazerat, Arabic En-Nasra), the largest Arab town in Israel, lies on the southern edge of the Galilean uplands, above the Jezreel Plain.
As the place where the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary and where Jesus spent most of his life, Nazareth has attracted Christian pilgrims for more than fifteen hundred years.HistoryNazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and in pre-Christian times was probably an insignificant village. Excavations from 1955 onwards, however, showed that the hill on which the Church of the Annunciation and St Joseph's Church stand was inhabited from the time of the patriarchs (second millennium B.C.). The little houses of the village were built on top of tombs of the second millennium and underground chambers hewn from the local tufa which had been used in the first half of the first millennium B.C. as store-rooms.The name of Nazareth first appears in the New Testament in the account of the Annunciation (Luke 1,26-33). Jesus lived here until after his baptism by John (Luke 3,21), but after he began to teach spent most of his time round Capernaum.In the early Christian period the Grotto of the Annunciation became a much venerated place of pilgrimage, and the present church is the fifth built on the site. An early place of Christian settlement, Nazareth was taken in 614 by the Persians, who, in conjunction with the Jews, destroyed it.Thereafter the Christian population declined. In 629, however, Nazareth was recovered by the Byzantines, who took their revenge by destroying the houses of the Jewish population. The place was not rebuilt until the time of Tancred, the Norman Crusader who took Nazareth in 1099 and ruled as Prince of Galilee.Nazareth suffered further destruction in 1263 at the hands of Baibars and his Mamelukes. Thereafter no Christians were allowed to live in the town until the Druze ruler Fakhr ed-Din revoked the ban in 1620. The town developed in the 19th and 20th centuries under Ottoman and later British rule. In 1948 Nazareth became part of Israel, and the new Jewish settlement of Nazerat Illit (Upper Nazareth), with its own administration, grew up on the hills above the town.
Nazareth is a town of many churches, notably the Church of the Annunciation with its 37m/121ft high dome. Few, however, would describe it as a beautiful town. The churches are in busy streets, frequently overloaded with traffic, and surrounded by plain houses run up by high-speed building methods, with no open spaces or attractive squares.A convenient starting-point for a sightseeing tour of Nazareth is Casa Nova Street, in which is the Church of the Annunciation. From here almost all the other churches of interest can easily be seen on foot. It is also worth taking a stroll through the market area of the town, which lies to the north of Casa Nova Street.
Although many churches have stood on this site, the present Church of the Annunciation was built in 1969 and is regarded as the most important church of modern times in Israel.
St Joseph's Church
A little way west of St Joseph's Church in Nazareth, through the market area, is the Synagogue Church, which belongs to the Melchites, a Greek Catholic community. To the left of the doorway is a door leading down to the synagogue which Jesus is said to have attended. In fact the scanty remains probably date from the sixth century.
A few hundred yards west of the Synagogue Church in Nazareth is the Franciscan Mensa Christi Church (1861), which contains a slab of stone 3.6m/12ft long and 3m/10ft wide, the Mensa Christi (Christ's Table), at which the risen Christ is said to have supped with his disciples.
From the Mensa Christi Church in Nazareth a path zigzags up to a commandingly situated monastery of French Salesians, with the Basilica of the Young Jesus. The church was built in 1918. Over the high altar is a figure of Jesus at the age of sixteen.From here there is a fine view of Nazareth.
Fountain of Mary & St Gabriel's Church
1.5km/1mi northeast of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, near the main road to Tiberias, is the Fountain of Mary. In Orthodox tradition, based on an apocryphal gospel, the Archangel Gabriel first appeared to Mary at the village fountain. The present Fountain of Mary is modern and is on a different site from the original fountain, which is said to be under the altar of the Greek Orthodox church of St Gabriel, a little way north - also well worth a visit for the sake of its decoration.
Map of Nazareth Attractions