Church of Saint Anne: But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
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Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8am to noon, 2pm to 5pm
The Church of Saint Anne is a beautiful church is close to the Lion’s Gate near the south side of the temple mount. Saint Anne is also attached to the Pools of Bethesda. It is one of the few buildings in Jerusalem still in existence from the Crusader period (12th century) and is one of the biggest Crusader churches in Israel. The Crusaders built it over the 5th century remains of a Byzantine church. Saint Anne is dedicated to Anna and Joachim. Anna and Joachim, according to religious tradition, lived at near this area, and their daughter (the Virgin Mary) was born in a cave under this amazing church.
The Church of Saint Anne is near the excavations of Bethesda, which are from the 2nd century BC through the 13th century AD. The excavations have unearthed baths and the original Byzantine Basilica. The Church of Saint Anne is built behind all these ruins.
Above the center door is an Arabic inscription telling a little of the history of the church. The inscription tells of the 1192 conquering of Jerusalem by Saladin. He then converted the church to a school. During the Mamluk period the school became the one of the most notable schools in the Middle East.
The interior of the Church of Saint Anne has three halls, all of the same size. Each is separated by two rows of columns. Each column has a cross-shaped base. The base of the south and north walls are part of the original Byzantine church, and the rest of the church dates to the 12th century BC.
The main altar is located in the center apse. Above the altar is an eastern window. There is also a crypt underneath the Church of Saint Anne. It was originally a cave believed to be the birth place of the Virgin Mary. Part of the cave contains the natural surface, but there is also a cave mural painted of Anna and Joachim holding the Virgin Mary and also an altar commemorating the Virgin Mary. Ascending the north stairs, visitors will see a statue of the adult Mary.
Church of Saint Anne History
The original Church of Saint Anne was built near the Bethesda reservoirs, which provided water to the temple mount. There was one pool during the First Temple period and another built in the 3rd century BC. In 44AD, Herod Agrippa built new pools and converted the pools at Bethesda into baths.
During the Byzantine period Juvenal the patriarch built a church over the pools and baths. During the 614 invasion, the Persians partially damaged and burned the church. In 1010, the original structure was completely destroyed by the Arabs.
When the Crusaders took over Jerusalem in 1099, they rebuilt the original Byzantine church, added a chapel and turned it into a monastery. In 1140 a larger church was built south of the pools and over the caves where Mary is thought to have been born. This is the Church of Saint Anne. For a brief period beginning in 1192 Saladin turned the Church of Saint Anne into a very reputable school. The Ottomans let the church fall into disrepair, but the Christians gained control of it in 1878, and efforts were made to refurbish it.