Basilica of the Annunciation History

| October 17, 2012 | 0 Comments
Pass it forward....Email this to someoneShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Basilica at Night with Nazareth in Background

Basilica at Night with Nazareth in Background

Annunciation Church

The two-tiered Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth marks the site of Mary’s home, where according to tradition she received the news that she was to become pregnant with the Christian Savior. The modern structure commemorating this important Christian event was built in 1969, however the site has had a long history.

The earliest annunciation church remains date back to circa 427 CE. The Crusaders built a large basilica atop the ruins of the 5th century structure. However, this later structure was obliterated when the Crusaders lost their hold over the Holy Land in 1187.

Ransomed by the Franciscans in 1620, the site lay fallow for another 120 years until the Arab ruling powers gave permission for a church to be built there. The 18th century structure stood undisturbed until the 20th century (1969) when it was decided to demolish the church to make way for a brand new basilica.

Catholic Basilica 

Though the current basilica is a modern-day structure, the site has been venerated by Christians since the earliest days of the 1st century CE. Today, the basilica remains an important stop for Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land.

Adam Jones  CC BY 2.0 View of Basilica By Day From Arab Cemetery

Adam Jones  CC BY 2.0
View of Basilica By Day From Arab Cemetery

History of Nazareth

Before building the latest incarnation of the basilica, comprehensive excavations were carried out, revealing the ancient city of Nazareth, complete with cisterns, cave-dwellings and silos.  All of this was exciting, however the most exciting discovery was what appears to be a synagogue or church or perhaps a shrine. Clearly, this structure dates back even further than 427 CE. Etched into the footing of a column is the greeting that the archangel Gabriel was said to have given to Mary (Hail Mary) in Greek characters.

But a finding that antedates the current Basilica proved even more sensational. With Christmas right around the corner, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced they’d found the remains of a house dating back to the time of the Christian Savior. The home, found in December of 2009, was found adjacent to the site on which the Basilica of the Annunciation stands.

Described by the Authority as the “very first” example of a residential dwelling from the ancient Jewish community of Nazareth, the house is small and simple: just two rooms plus a courtyard with a cistern for catching rainfall. By law, in order to preserve historic remains, excavations must be carried out prior to construction in Israel. The house was found while excavating the site prior to building Nazareth’s International Marian Center. The precious remains of the house will be on display inside the Center.

Lyn Gately  CC BY 2.0 The Grotto, Site of the Annunciation

Lyn Gately  CC BY 2.0
The Grotto, Site of the Annunciation

There is very little documentation relating to the ancient history of the city of Nazareth. Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, who died in 339 CE, described the town as a tiny Jewish village that existed during the Roman and Byzantine empires. The 3rd century historian Africanus described early converts to Christianity, while pilgrims documented their pilgrimages to the town as early as the end of the 4th century.

There are references to the grotto as the site of the Annunciation going as far back as the 4th century. The first church to be built here was probably extant by the early 4th century. A document from around 384 CE mentions an altar, while references to a church on this site date back to around 570 CE.

Byzantine Remains

Remains of a Byzantine church were found during excavations carried out prior to building the current church structure. The Byzantine remains date back to the 4th or 5th century. This early church had three aisles, an immense atrium, and one projecting apse. A modest-sized monastery was built at the southern end of the church.

Arculf, a Christian pilgrim, documented two churches he found in Nazareth around the year 680 CE. One church was at the site of Mary’s spring, while the other was found at the site where the Basilica of the Annunciation is today located.

Basilica of the Annunciation History: Did You Know?

The Basilica of the Annunciation was dedicated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI during his historic visit to Israel, and consecrated on March 23, 1969. Two days later, a second ecumenical service was held in which clergy of various denominations participated: Lutheran, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, Ethiopian, and Coptic.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Christianity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *