In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country...
This is the story of the Annunciation to Mary. In the early centuries of Christianity, this was one of the major feasts in the Church. Christmas as a major holiday did not really evolve until the Middle Ages. If you don't believe me, go do a Google image search of Christian art prior to to the year AD 1100. You will find very little in way of Nativity scenes or the like, but many extant art images of the Annunciation. The Annunciation and the debates over the Theotokos were very central in the Patristic era of Christianity for various theological reasons that I won't go into here.
On my pilgrimage, I got to visit the site of the Annunciation. Or, perhaps it is better to say one of the sites. Other than the Holy Sepulchre that is shared by several groups (more on that later), most of the holy sites Israel have more than one place commemorating the event. It is usually Franciscan church here saying this is the spot and about 100 yards away, the Greek Orthodox or whomever have a little church saying that is the spot. They are always within a half block or so, so I suppose it is ballpark. The Franciscans love having visitors and are very friendly, so many of the sites we saw are Franciscan owned churches. The Greek Orthodox in a thinking as to not profane a holy site were not so friendly or open to tourists, so we only saw many of their spots from the outside.
|Click to enlarge these images|
As such, here are some images of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The inside nave had some wonderful depictions of the Annunciation done in various cultures, a few of them can be seen in the photos. They were apparently donated from all over the world at the time of the building of the newest building. The Church building itself is fairly modern, being completed in 1969. The remains of the first church were found in 1955. The 4th church prior to the newest one was built in 1877. The newest structure is really two superimposed churches: a lower crypt preserving the Holy Grotto of the first churches and the upper level which currently serves as the city's current Catholic parish hall.
|The Grotto of the Annunciation|
|Where the Annunciation happened|