Basilica of the Annunciation: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)
Winter: Monday-Saturday, 8am to 5pm
Summer: Saturday-Sunday, 8am to 6pm
The Basilica of the Annunciation lies in the center of Nazareth on Casa Nova Street. It is also called the Catholic Church of the Annunciation. This beautiful structure is built where Mary, Joseph and Jesus Christ are thought to have resided. On the lower level is the cave where it is believed Gabriel, an archangel, told Virgin Mary she was going to give birth to the son of God. Others believe he gave her the news at a well, so it is still debated. Standing over 59 meters high, this shining star among Christian churches is adorned with numerous mosaics from nations all over the world. Each mosaic pays homage to Jesus Christ and bears a distinct reflection of the cultural artistry of its creator.
The Basilica of the Annunciation has two stories with space enough for many, many worshipers. On the lower level around the cave, it is dark which adds to the mystique and wonder of the annunciation event. Especially in this lower level, but in many parts throughout the church, the visitor sees remnants of the previous churches that used to stand where the modern day Basilica now stands. Under the plaza there lies a museum of some of the beautiful pieces of artwork excavated. Some of these even date as far back as the crusader era!
Some of the exquisite aspects that set this edifice apart from other churches are a lily dome commemorating the Virgin Mary’s purity and a shining marble floor with the names of the popes etched within. The Italian painter Salvador Puma painted a giant mosaic of the infant Jesus Christ and his parents to adorn the front.
The original church dates back to the 400s, during the Byzantine era. At this time, it was really modest, with just a chapel and a monastery apart from the cave. The state of this monument declined during the Muslim occupation of Palestine-Israel from the 600s to the Crusader era (11th century).
Years later, Prince Tancred of Galilee rebuilt it into the amazing Basilica of the Annunciation of the 1200s. He was careful to keep the remains of the previous churches within the building to provide a hand-on historical statement to the entrants. This heyday didn’t last long, as it was destroyed in 1263 by the Mamluk Sultan Baibers. Even though the Franciscans obtained possession briefly to modestly rebuild the basilica and cave remains, records indicate that the area was still in relative ruins in the 1600s due to constant upheaval and political turmoil.
In the 1700s it was modestly rebuilt again. It had a few altars, a small chapel and steps leading to the cave itself. Over the years, the Franciscans continued to build on. In 1930 the Catholic Church established a Franciscan school next to the Basilica of the Annunciation and a monastery. It began to stand out among Nazareth churches, but the current ornate façade was built in 1955. Leaving the remains, yet honoring the mystique of the annunciation, the visitors to the Basilica of the Annunciation will be in awe and staggered at the rich history of this church honoring Jesus Christ.