Church of the Visitation: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:46-55)
April – September, 8am to noon and 2:30pm to 6pm
October – March, 8am to noon and 2:30 to 5pm
Gates closed on Saturdays. Ring bell to be let in.
The Church of the Visitation is said to have been built over the home of the home of John the Baptist’s parents. This sacred site stands on the hillside of Ein Kerem in Jerusalem and above the Spring of the Virgin.
Ein Kerem is about 7 kilometers from the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a quiet and small village. Ein Kerem was once a Palestinian city, but it now has many Jewish sculptors and artists. As a visitor, its draw comes from its many galleries and delicious restaurants.
The Church of the Visitation can be reached by ascending the steps from the main road in the village. The courtyard of the Church of the Visitation has one wall covered with ceramic tiles with the Magnificat in 42 languages!
The Magnificat is a portion of scripture that relays what Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ) said when she was talking to Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). In this portion of the Bible, John the Baptist leaped en utero at the presence of Mary and the unborn Jesus Christ. Elizabeth then extols Mary, and Mary’s reply begins like this: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The entire reply is the text for the Magnificat. The Church of the Visitation, then, is supposedly built on top of the location of this momentous exchange.
The Church of the Visitation was designed by Antonio Barluzzi. The lower portion of the church is decorated with frescoes of Hebrew women in the Bible. The upper section of the Church of the Visitation has a ceiling painted in the classic Tuscan style and large murals of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
The present day Church of the Visitation incorporates a natural grotto that once encased a spring. This spring and grotto became a place of prayer during the Byzantine era, and the Crusaders built a two-story church over the spot. The church, however, declined after the Crusaders left.
The Franciscan order purchased the land that the Church of the Visitation now sits on in 1679. It then took them two centuries to get permission from the Ottomans to rebuild the Church of the Visitation. The Franciscans restored the lower section of the Church of the Visitation in 1862. They then rebuilt the upper portion in 1955.