Basilica of the Annunciation

Coordinates: 32°42′08″N 35°17′52″E / 32.70222°N 35.29778°E / 32.70222; 35.29778
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Church of the Annunciation
Church from north
ProvinceLatin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusMinor Basilica
Year consecrated1969
LocationNazareth, Israel
Architect(s)Giovanni Muzio
Dome height (outer)55 metres
A stain-glass window

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.[1][2]

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[edit]

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.[3]

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.[4]

Crusader church[edit]

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.[5] Saladin granted permission to Franciscan priests to remain in Nazareth to oversee services at the church.[5]

In 1260, Baybars and his Mamluk army destroyed the church during their attack on Nazareth.[5]

Gift from Spain

Mamluk and early Ottoman period[edit]

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.[6]

17th- and 18th-century churches[edit]

The Church of the Annunciation, interior (about 1925)
Gift from Indonesia

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.[6]

In 1730, Dahir al-Umar permitted construction of a new church, which became a central gathering place for Nazareth Latin community. The church was enlarged in 1877.[6]

20th-century basilica[edit]

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.[7] 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.

Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass in the new church during his trip to the Holy Land in 1964[8] The basilica was completed in 1969.[6]

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.[9]

Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the Great Jubilee of 2000 and celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation on March 25, 2000.[10][11]

Significance and rank[edit]

Under Canon Law, the church enjoys the status of a minor basilica.[12] 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.[citation needed]


The current Catholic Church is a two-storey building finished in 1969 over the site of earlier churches from the Byzantine, Crusader, and the Israeli -period churches.[citation needed]

Lower church[edit]

The lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.[13]

Upper church[edit]

The upper level contains a number of images of Mary, mainly mosaics, each from a different country with significant Catholic population.[citation needed]

Courtyard gallery of Madonnas[edit]

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;[1] the Virgin of Montserrat, patroness of Catalonia; the Virgin of the Forsaken, patroness of Valencia; and the Virgin of Guadalupe, patroness of Extremadura.[14]

Mass arrangements[edit]

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.


See also[edit]

  • Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy, where a three-wall structure is revered as the Holy House, removed from Nazareth through divine intervention


  1. ^ a b Cristianos en Tierra Santa Archived 2014-12-05 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ Meistermann, Barnabas. "Nazareth." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 4 February 2021 Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Emmerich, Anne Catherine (1914). "Chapter 2, the Holy House of Nazareth". Life of Jesus Christ. Vol. 1. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books. ISBN 978-0-89555-787-2. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Emmett, 1995, p. 100.
  6. ^ a b c d Emmett, 1995, p. 101.
  7. ^ Schieller, Eli. Nazareth and its sites, Ariel, 1982
  8. ^ "The Pilgrimage of Pope Paul the Sixth", Life (magazine), January 17, 1964, pp.18–29
  9. ^ "Roman Curia". The Spiritual Life. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  10. ^ "Jubilee Pilgrimage of His Holiness John Paul II to the Holy Land (March 20-26, 2000)". Vatican archives. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  11. ^ "Pray the Rosary with St. John Paul II, Jubilee pilgrimage to Rosary sites". Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  12. ^ Norms for the Granting of the Title of Minor Basilica Archived 2016-10-09 at the Wayback Machine, Adoremus Bulletin, December 31, 2007. Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Basilica of the Annunciation", Nazareth Cultural and Tourism Association
  14. ^ La patrona extremeña será entronizada en la basílica de la Anunciación

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Nazareth". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


Other reading[edit]

32°42′08″N 35°17′52″E / 32.70222°N 35.29778°E / 32.70222; 35.29778