Byzantium

Timeline date: 
Pre-colonial

During the Byzantine period, Nazareth became a holy place for Christians and its first church was built over a cave where Joseph and Mary are believed to have lived. In this period, there was also a large increase in pilgrimage to Nazareth. Towards the end of the Byzantine era, Jewish settlement in Nazareth came to a halt and the city became Christian.
 
 
 
Background to the Byzantine Era
 
Near the end of the third century, Rome reached a point of crisis as the Barbarian invasions threatened to topple the empire. The last Caesar, Diocletianus, realizing he no longer had the power to rule the entire territory, divided it into eastern and western provinces.
 
 
 

During the Byzantine period, Nazareth became a holy place for Christians and its first church was built over a cave where Joseph and Mary are believed to have lived. In this period, there was also a large increase in pilgrimage to Nazareth. Towards the end of the Byzantine era, Jewish settlement in Nazareth came to a halt and the city became Christian.
 
 
 
Background to the Byzantine Era
 
Near the end of the third century, Rome reached a point of crisis as the Barbarian invasions threatened to topple the empire. The last Caesar, Diocletianus, realizing he no longer had the power to rule the entire territory, divided it into eastern and western provinces.
 
 
 
The eastern empire was inherited by Constantine, who moved from Rome to Byzantium (today Istanbul in Turkey), later renamed Constantinople after him. While the western half of the empire collapsed, the eastern empire enjoyed prosperity. In 324, Constantine officially declared Christianity his empire’s faith, and the religion spread quickly, including to Europe.
 
 
 
As a result, Eastern, Orthodox Christianity separated from Latin, or Catholic, Christianity under the rule of the Pope in Rome.
 
Nazareth's first Church
 
Constantine’s mother, Helen, a devoted Christian, made several journeys to the Holy Land, where she identified and sanctified some of the most important Christian sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
 
 
 
In 356, Constantine granted permission to Joseph the Proselyte from Tiberias to build several churches in the Galilee. However, he faced strong resistance from the Jews of Nazareth. It was not until 427 AD that the first church was built in the city with the assistance of the Deacon of Jerusalem, Conon – the word “Conon” can still been seen on a mosaic floor close to the holy cave in today’s Basilica of the Annunciation. Additional remains from the Byzantine Church of Annunciation were preserved as well and can also be found in the modern church built on the site.
 
The end of the Jewish Settlement in Nazareth
 
In 614, the Persians invaded the Holy Land and recruited Jews from Tiberias, the Galilee’s Mountains and Nazareth as allies against the Christians and the Byzantine government. There were many massacres of Christians and the churches were destroyed. Some 15 years later, the Byzantines re-conquered the area. The Christians sought revenge against the Jews of the Galilee, and it is believed the Jewish settlement in Nazareth was destroyed in 630. 
 

 

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