The Synagogue Church: He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. (Luke 4:16)
Monday-Saturday, 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm
The Synagogue Church lies in the center of Nazareth old market on road #6120. In Arabic its name is rendered “Madrasset El-Massiach,” which means “The Messiah Academy.” Nestled in the heart of the Market between stores, this unassuming structure is set apart by a small path and a sign reading: The Synagogue. The appearance of this attraction is hardly like that of a modern church. It is over a meter underground. It is made mostly of reinforced stone and clay.
The Synagogue Church is of particular interests to visitors because according to Christian history it is the synagogue that Jesus went to as a child and adolescent. In fact, it is even suggested that this is the location of Jesus’ famous “sermon” in Luke 4. During this monologue, Jesus claims to be the messiah to his stunned Jewish audience. They were angered enough to drag him to Mt. Precipice with intentions of stoning him. Luckily for later Christians, Jesus slipped away and lived to perform more miracles before his ministry ended. How reliable this belief is comes into question. Biblically, the synagogue Jesus and his family attended was well within the city walls. The Synagogue Church, however, lies outside of the historical original Nazareth village.
In addition to completing the rebuilding of the original structure, in 1887, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church also built a small church on the property called the “The New Synagogue Church.” They adorned this new chapel with ornate paintings of Jesus as a child, through his adolescence and as a king. Both the original structure and the new chapel remain in the possession of the Greek Catholic community in Nazareth.
Little is known of this synagogue’s early history, because in 67 AD most of religious structures in Nazareth were destroyed. Then in the Byzantine Era Christians, rather than Jews, began to come regularly. It is thought that the stories of Jesus coming to the synagogue in his lifetime originated during this period. It was destroyed during the Muslim occupation, and what was left was turned into a shed.
During the 18th, Galilean Governor Daher El Omar began treating Christians quite a bit better and restoring Catholic ownership of the Nazareth properties originally in their possession. The Synagogue Church then was sold to the Franciscans. The Franciscan order began renovations on the original synagogue edifice. However, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church gained possession and finished the refurbishment.