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The Nazareth Terra Sancta Museum is a humble yet significant presentation of artifacts uncovered near the Church of Annunciation. These artifacts illustrate the church’s history well through the Ages, from Canaanite to Modern times.

History of Nazareth’s Terra Sancta Museum

Since the 4th Century CE, the site of the church of Annunciation has been marked as a significant holy Christian site. A centuries-old tradition maintains that the church is built over the home of Mary and where she concieved Jesus by divine intervention (Luke 1:26-38). In the mid-20th century, the Catholic church constructed a new grand-scale church. Covering an area of nearly one acre, it is the biggest church in the Middle East.

Detailed archaeological excavations of the church’s vicinity accompanied the construction of the new church. These excavations yielded a wealth of finds. Some of the finds, especially walls and mosaic floors, were restored and embedded in the new Church. However, many documented artifacts required a proper display, which led to the establishment of this museum. The Nazareth Terra Sancta Archaeological Museum exhibits highlights of the finds made near the church, covering over 3000 years.

Touring the Terra Sancta Nazareth Museum

The Museum is open Monday to Saturday and charges an entry fee. Among the many artifacts on display, the two “Must see” are –

The Crusader’s-Era Capitals

nazareth-museum-capitalsAt the turn of the 20th century, archaeologists uncovered five Crusader-era capitals with high-quality carvings. Concealed in antiquity, perhaps these capitals were prepared in the 1170s, after an earthquake damaged the Crusaders-era church, but were never put in place. The archaeologist suggests that the repairs were never completed because of the Crusaders’ defeat in the Horns of Hattin battle (1187 CE). The Capitals present in detailed medieval-style episodes in the lives of Jesus, Peter, James the Great, Thomas, and Matthew.

“XE MARIA” Graffiti

Nazareth-museum-xe-mariaDuring archaeological excavations in the 1950s, archaeologists uncovered, among others, a column’s base with graffiti etched on it.  Reading in Greek “XE Maria” (“Hail Mary”), the archaeologists dated it to the early 4th century CE. This is an essential testimony to the site being venerated before 312 CE when Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire.

Besides the permanent exhibition, through the museum, it is possible to access some of the caves and carved silos next to the church. These finds are essential testimony to the rural nature of Nazareth in Roman times. In the courtyard are also mosaic floors from the Byzantine period, which were uncovered in the excavations of the church.

A tour of Nazareth Terra Sancta Museum can be combined with a day tour to Nazareth and the Galilee

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