Basilica of Annunciation
Nazareth Israel

The Basilica of Annunciation also called the Church of the Annunciation in the city of Nazareth Israel is the largest basilica in the Middle East.

It was designed by Architect Giovanni Muzio and was consecrated in March 1969 and maintained by the Franciscan Order.

Basilica of the Annunciation dominating the Nazareth Skyline

History

The archaeological findings in the area confirm the tradition that here was the home of Mary and the Site of the Annunciation where Gabriel announced her that she will give birth to Jesus.

And also of different Byzantine Churches and others of the Crusaders eras. You may see some of the findings in the Franciscan Museum within the Church.


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The Japanese Virgin Mary with its Pearls mantle on display at the Church

Timeline in history

This is a brief timeline of the different churches build in the same site:

  • 4th Century AD An early church was built in what was believed to be Mary’s House

  • 340 – 470 AD Emperor Constantine, encouraged by his mother Queen Helena built the church as shown in one of the mosaics.

  • 638 AD The Arabs invaded and destroyed the church.

  • 1109 A new church was built by the arriving Crusaders who stayed until the end of that century.

  • 1187 The priests were butchered by the Arabs after the Horns of Hittim battle.

  • 1229 – 1263 Brief return of the Crusaders. Church destroyed again by Mamluks.

  • 1620 For the third time the church is occupied by the Franciscans after buying it.

  • 1730 Rebuilding of the Church for the third time.

  • 1877 Church rebuilt and enlarged for the fourth time.

  • 1955 – 1969 Under the State of Israel, Architect Giovanni Muzzio designed and rebuilt the fifth church.

  • 1997 – 2006 Friction with Muslims because a Mosque is being built in front of the church.

The altar at the Upper Basilica of Annunciation

Present time

The Church of Annunciation is made of two levels and is crowned by a spectacular cupola of 55 meters that can be seen from far. Natural light illuminates the interior. It is adorned by beautiful mosaics of ceramic donated by Catholic Communities from around the world. The Altar features imposing Italian mosaics.

The upper church serves as the local Roman Catholic Parish Church serving the Catholic population of Nazareth Israel. A courtyard outside connects to the Church of St Joseph’s Carpentry.

It has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries and is today a must stop for Christian Pilgrims on Holy Land Tours

The modern Basilica of the Annunciation was built with shape of the Madonna lily, symbol of the Virgin Mary. The whole upper part is adorned by huge mosaics of the Virgin Mary donated by communities from around the world.

No matter how many times I have been there accompanying groups I keep being amazed by the beauty of these mosaics. They depict the Virgin as seen by the eyes of the people of the country of origin of the mosaic. I can tell you that the Japanese one covered with a manta of real pearls is awe inspiring.

The lower part of the church centers on the Grotto or cave of the Annunciation and many archaeological findings of the Crusaders and Byzantine Churches that preceded this one.

This is the largest Catholic Church in the Middle East

How to get there

You will probably be taken by one of the fabulous Israeli Tour guides but if you are one of the few braves driving by yourself, getting to Nazareth is very easy since it is located in the middle of the Lower Galilee and coming from the north, the Sea of Galilee or from Haifa or Tel Aviv, all the signs will take you to Nazareth. Once there the Basilica of Annunciation is the number one site.

  • Opening hours:
  • Daily 8:00-11:45am and 2-6pm (5pm in winter)
  • Sunday and feast days: 2 pm-5:30pm (4:30pm in winter)

Image Credits for the Basilica of Annunciation
basilica by david shankbone
upper church by otter
basilica at night by zaher332
japanese mary by adriatikus

All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The resorts images are courtesy of the resorts mentioned.

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