Sisters of Nazareth Convent
Established in 1855, the Sisters of Nazareth Convent is in the heart of old Nazareth, just 100 feet west of the Church of Annunciation. Archaeological discoveries made under the convent are believed by some to be related Jesus’ home in Nazareth in Roman times.
History and Archaeology of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent
In the mid-19th century nuns arriving from France established in Nazareth new order, The Sisters of Nazareth. They bought several shops near the Church of Annunciation and began building a convent. During the development various archaeological discoveries were made, which were researched in several stages. Following a survey and review of previous archaeological reports, in 2020 archaeologist Ken Dark published a new research of the site. He is of the opinion that the site was first inhabited in the 1st century CE by a family who lived in a house with a courtyard. Shortly after, perhaps still in the 1st century, the area became a cemetery. A Jewish burial cave was recorded at the site, with several burial niches (kokhim) and a remarkably large rolling stone. Later, in the Byzantine period, an impressive church was built over the site. It had three apses, a mosaic floor and wall decorations. Dark believes that this might be the “Church of Nutrition” described by a 7th Century CE pilgrim visiting Nazareth: “..It [i.e. Nazareth] has, however, large stone buildings, and there are two very large churches, one in the centre of the city raised on two piles, where once upon a time was the house in which the Lord, our saviour, was brought up. This church then, as has been said above, is supported upon two mounds with arches between, and there is a very clear fountain underneath, between the mounds. ” (De Locis Sanctis II:26).
Later, in the time of the crusaders a stairway was built above the church. Dark argues that it could have been a medieval accessway to the church which was now underground. Dark concludes that one should not rule out the possibility that the 1st century house with a courtyard was the house of the Holy Family, where Jesus grew up. These conclusions were criticized by René Salm, as presented here.
Touring the Sisters of Nazareth Convent
The convent is next to the Church of Annunciation, but it is not open to the general public. A visit to the site is only available by appointment, and visitors are expected to leave a donation.