|Church of the Annunciation|
|Province||Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Minor Basilica|
|Dome height (outer)||55 metres|
The Church of the Annunciation (Latin: Basilica Annuntiationis, Arabic: كنيسة البشارة, Hebrew: כנסיית הבשורה), sometimes also referred to as the Basilica of the Annunciation, is a Catholic church in Nazareth, in northern Israel. It is one of two claimants to the site of the Annunciation – in which angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced that she would give birth to Jesus – the other being the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
It was established over what Catholic tradition holds to be the site of the house of the Virgin Mary.
The church was established at the site where, according to one tradition, the Annunciation took place. Another tradition, based on the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, holds that this event commenced while Mary was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth, and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was erected at that alternate site.
Late Roman/Byzantine shrine
Christian tradition has held that a structure was commissioned by Emperor Constantine I, whose mother, Saint Helena, helped to found churches commemorating important events in Jesus Christ's life. The Church of the Annunciation was founded around the same time as the Church of the Nativity (the birthplace) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the tomb). Some version of it was known to have still been in existence around 570.
A competing view is that the Church was the site of the Holy House, which, according to Catholic legend, was transported by angels across the sea to Loreto, Italy, at the time of the Muslim conquest.
The second church was built over the ruins of the Byzantine-era church during the Crusades, following the conquest of Nazareth by Tancred in 1102. The Crusader-era church was never fully completed. Five Romanesque capitals carved by artists from northern France, and discovered during excavations in 1909, had not yet been installed in 1187 when news of Saladin's victory in the Battle of Hittin reached the city. Saladin granted permission to Franciscan priests to remain in Nazareth to oversee services at the church.
Mamluk and early Ottoman period
A small number of Franciscans managed to stay in Nazareth until the fall of Acre in 1291. In the three centuries that followed, the Franciscans were in and out of Nazareth, depending on the local political situation, which was constantly in flux. Franciscan accounts of this period document their expulsion in 1363, their return in 1468 and a massacre of some of their members in 1542. Local Christian families with Franciscan support took care of the holy site even during this difficult period.
17th- and 18th-century churches
Emir Fakhr ad-Din granted the Franciscans permission to return to Nazareth and the church ruins in 1620, at which time they constructed a small structure to enclose the holy grotto that is venerated as the house of Mary.
The old church was completely demolished in 1954 to allow for the construction of a new basilica. The new basilica was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio, and built by the Israeli building firm Solel Boneh during the years 1960–1969. The Chief Engineer at this project was Ing. Shlomo Lopatin (Aluf) who was dedicated to the Basilica building process for more than 10 years, and it was indeed his life-project. It is built in a style sometimes characterised as Italian Brutalism.
Used by the Latin parish, it remains under the control of the Franciscans. It is the largest Christian Church building or sanctuary in the Middle East under the supervision of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Significance and rank
Under Canon Law, the church enjoys the status of a minor basilica. A historically significant site, considered sacred within some circles of Christianity, particularly Catholicism, the basilica attracts many Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox Christian visitors every year.
The upper level contains a number of images of Mary, mainly mosaics, each from a different country with significant Catholic population.
Courtyard gallery of Madonnas
On the walls enclosing the courtyard of the basilica, there is a gallery with icons (mainly mosaics, but also some made of ceramic tiles) representing some of the most important Marian devotions in different countries. Some of the main Marian devotions from Spain are included: the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands; the Virgin of Montserrat, patroness of Catalonia; the Virgin of the Forsaken, patroness of Valencia; and the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of Extremadura.
As of November 2018, Catholic Masses are given in the Grotto, Upper Basilica, and adjacent St. Joseph's Church in the Arabic and Italian languages, according to the main church sign in English.
Catholic Mass at the Grotto of the Annunciation (lower level of the church).
Front door of the church, depicting major events in Jesus' life.
Night view of the Basilica
Mosaic from Ukraine in the church courtyard
Titus Tobler's 1868 plan of the church as it was in Crusader times
- Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy, where a three-wall structure is revered as the Holy House, removed from Nazareth through divine intervention
- Cristianos en Tierra Santa Archived 2014-12-05 at the Wayback Machine
- Slyomovics 2009, p. 16: "Despite the singularity of the miracle of the messianic Annunciation, two churches built in Nazareth each vied to preserve a unique moment in mankind's history at a precise locale that marks when and where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." For Roman Catholics, the divine-human encounter enacted through Gabriel to Mary occurred within the courtyard confines of the Basilica of the Annunciation. Built as late as 1730 as a Franciscan church, demolished in 1955, and constructed anew by 1969, the Basilica is a Nazareth landmark labeled the largest house of Christian worship for Roman Catholics in the Middle East. The Basilica stands in contrast to parallel claims of the Greek Orthodox location of the Annunciation. As with two Annunciation sites in Nazareth, there are also two, if not three, wells associated with the Virgin Mary where Mary, accompanied by the child Jesus, drew water for her everyday needs: one located within the enclosure walls of the Roman Catholic Basilica, and a second, within the Greek Orthodox St. Gabriel Church in the Chapel of the Spring, both sites renowned as tourist and pilgrimage destinations for centuries. Sectarian differences focus on the geography of the Annunciation, less so sustained by core theological divergences. Each church claims to possess the actual geographical feature of Mary's Well, just as each church maintains the association of the Virgin Mary symbolically and mythically with water."
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