Nazareth

Nazareth is the town where the gospel says that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary announcing that she was to give birth to the Christ child (Luke 1:26-31). It is the hometown of Jesus during his early years. (Luke 2:39-40). It was also here that Jesus read from Isaiah, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me” and was threatened by the citizens of the town. (Luke 4:16-31).

The old town is surrounded by a circle of hills named Nazarat Illit meaning Upper Nazareth. Originally Upper Nazareth was intended for Jewish Israelis only but it has become more mixed lately as a few Palestinian Christian families have moved in.

Church of the Annunciation Tower
Cathedral of the Annunciation Tower

The Cathedral of the Annunciation is a Latin Catholic basilica with a gigantic dome. It is the centerpiece of Nazareth and can be seen from quite a distance away. In the late 1900s there was an attempt to build a mosque with minarets in front of the church. Although it was approved by the Israeli government, protests led to the mosque being built in another place.

The church stands over the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader structures in a place traditionally believed to be the house of the Virgin Mary. A series of spectacular mosaics of Mary and Jesus are arranged around the cloister. They were given by different nations to represent the art and ethnicity of their own countries. A worship area (presumably the cave where Mary actually lived) is on a lower level and is available for visiting Catholic priests to say Mass. Another space for local Catholic Christians is on an upper floor. 

There are many other churches and places to visit in Nazareth:

St. Joseph’s Church is next door to the Cathedral of the Annunciation and is considered to be the site of joseph’s carpenter shop and perhaps the home of the holy family. It is owned by the Franciscans and built over Byzantine and Crusader ruins.

The Church of St. Gabriel is traditionally on the spot where the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and told her about the child she was to conceive. The location is based on a gospel, not in our canon, which speaks of Gabriel meeting with Mary at a spring where she went for water. The church is Greek Orthodox, built in the late 1700’s over Crusader ruins.

Mary’s cave is now a chapel
Mary’s cave is now a chapel
Mary's Well
Mary's Well

Just a short way away from the Cathedral of the Annunciation is an Anglican church named Christ Church. It includes English and Arabic in the liturgy and holds a coffee hour and discussion after the service. It is a good place for Americans to meet local Christians.

The Church of Mensa Christi was built by the Franciscans in 1861 around a rock known as the “Table of the Lord”. It is considered to be one of the sights where Jesus and the disciples met following the resurrection. (Matthew 28:6-10; Mark 16:14).

The Scottish Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society has constructed a full-scale replica of a first-century town called “Nazareth Village”. Along with a museum, it gives information about the life and teachings of Jesus as well as a sense of the kind of life Jesus led as a child and a builder’s apprentice.

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