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nazareth saint gabriel church

Also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, the Church of Saint Gabriel is set in the heart of Nazareth, next to Nazareth’s spring. According to Orthodox tradition, the Archangel Gabriel approached her while Mary fetched water. Later, at her house, he announced that she would bear the Messiah. The Orthodox tradition is based on the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, an uncanonized source dated to the 2nd century CE. The book’s focus is Mary and the childhood of Jesus in Nazareth. Among others, it states that angel Gabrial first appeared to Mary when she was fetching water in the local spring. Frightened at his sight, she ran back home. There, he appeared again and delivered the message of her miraculous conception.

 “(1) And she took the cup and went out to fill it with water. (2) Suddenly, a voice said to her, “Rejoice, blessed one. The Lord is with you. You are blessed among women.” (3) And Mary looked around to the right and the left to see where this voice came from. (4) And trembling she went into her house. Setting down the cup, she took the purple thread and sat down on the chair and spun it. (5) Suddenly, an angel stood before her saying, “Do not be afraid Mary. You have found grace before the Lord of all. You will conceive from his word.” (Gospel of James 11:1-5).

History of the Church

saint gabriel church nazarethThe Crusaders first built the church in the 12th Century CE, but the Mamluks destroyed it a century later. In 1749, Daher el-Omar permitted the Greek-Orthodox to rebuild a new church over the spring, completed a year later. Standing to this day, the church is highly ornate. Romanian artists restored its Byzantine-Greek-style wall paintings 1977-8. The wooden veil (Iconostasis) of the church is also a masterpiece. A Greek inscription on its base indicates it was a gift from a Greek merchant in 1767. The crypt leading to the spring’s source is dated to the time of the Crusaders.

Today, it is decorated with marble plaques and colorful tiles from the Ottoman era. Here, the pilgrims can see and feel the spring water, which used to be used to go to a public fountain (Mary’s Well). A wall painting above it depicts the Angel’s visit. The inscriptions beneath the image, in Arabic, Greek, Russian, and English, read: “Hail, thou that art favored, the lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.” Saint Gabriel Church is the Greek-Orthodox church’s most sacred place in Nazareth. In the past, the Russians had a pilgrim’s center near the spring, the locals nicknamed the Moscowbiya.

Touring Saint Gabriel Church in Nazareth

The church is right next to Nazareth main road, behind Mary’s Well and about half a mile north of the Catholic Church of Annunciation. It is open Monday to Saturday, free of Charge. Visitors are requested to dress modestly and speak softly.

A tour of Saint Gabriel Church can be combined with a guided day tour of Nazareth and the Galilee.

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