Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Greek Orthodox Announciation Church
It is also known as St. Gabriel Church and Mary's Well Church.
This small church, with its fortress like appearance, is one of the most beautiful and unique ones in Israel. Following the Easter Christian tradition, this church has many wall paintings, statues and chandeliers. The sound of water sprouting out of the fountain inside, as well as its warm, bold colors, create a warmth, spiritual feeling.
This church is the most sacred place for the Greek-Orthodox community in Nazareth, and is built where, according to an ancient tradition, was the annunciation to Virgin Mary from Archangel Gabriel as she came by to draw water from the spring. The church was established during Crusader-Era times in the 12th century, shortly after the Crusaders’ occupation, then was destroyed during the Mamluk Era times by the Mamluk Sultan Baibers in the 13th century, and re-built during the Ottoman Era times in 1750.
History of the church
The church is built where, according to an ancient tradition followed by the Greeks and the Orthodox, Archangel Gabriel told Virgin Mary that she is about to conceive by the holy spirit and give birth to the son of god. This happened as Mary went down to draw water from the spring. The origin of this tradition is a late external literature called "Proto Evanglion for Jacob" (written, according to tradition, by St. James). Tradition also tells about Jesus the kid who followed his mother to this spring in order to draw water as well.
The church was established in the Crusaders-Era times, in the beginning of the 12th century, shortly after the Crusader occupation. Around the cave in the church you can still find remains of the Crusaders. During the Mamluk Era, in 1263, it was destroyed by Sultan Baibers along with the rest of the Christian churches in Nazareth.
Between the years of 1628-1634, the spring was in possession of the Franciscans, who built an arched room above it. However, on 1749 the Greek-Orthodox has received a charter from Daher El-Omar, allowing them to rebuild the church, and they have been in possession of the place ever since. In 1750 they have built the Greek-Orthodox church and called the "The Church of Annunciation”.
Description of the church
The church is divided to 2: the central prayer structure from the 18th century, and the more ancient, well preserved part from the 12th century, led to by an arched passageway padded with Ottoman tiles.
The crypt includes an elevated podium, and behind it is the fountain drawing water from the spring above the church, through the church itself to the water trough located on Mary's Plaza, also known as "Mary's Well”. The walls have an Arabic writing saying: "The annunciation to Virgin Mary nearby the spring”. An elevated water pit is located where the apsis starts, for the convenience of the pilgrims drawing the holy water from here. Above the altar you can see a picture dedicated to the annunciation.
The church is built in a typical Greek-Orthodox Galilee church shape: a massive building reminding some kind of a fortress. It's divided to a hall and 2 wings, with a square bells' tower above it. The altar was hidden by a decorated wooden partition (iconostasis) given as a gift to the church by a rich Greek merchant in 1767.
The partition is decorated with embossments and icons of mazy animals and other typical Greek iconography reminding the one in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and in Marsava monetary in the Judea desert
Behind the iconostasis, next to the altar, there are many ancient statues, though their origin and date are unclear. Some of them were given to the church by Russian pilgrims who were visiting many times in the 19th and 20th century.
The Moscowbiya, the Russian pilgrims' center, is located next to the church. The church was re-decorated in 1977-8 by Romanian artists, after previous decorations didn’t last the damages of time. The decorations are describing, among other things, the Annunciation given to Virgin Mary by Archangel Gabriel near the spring.
The church’s area includes a hall belongs to the Orthodox society in the city. This hall is used as a club, as a room for consoling the bereaved and other gatherings of the community. The hall was built thanks to a donation given from Baddia al-Nuss and is called after his father, Bishara al-nuss.
Note: When visiting the Church please dress modestly and speak softly. Entry is free.