Monday, May 28, 2012

Travels in Israel: Nazareth, Home of Mary and Jesus

Nazareth, village of the Annunciation.
"Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was meant by the Romans as an insult. At that time, Nazareth was about the size of two football fields, a tiny backwater village of no importance. That a "king" could come from it was absurd.

Nazareth is a town of several religions, all catered to by merchants.
Today it's a city of 75,000; tourists and pilgrims flock to the Church of the Annunciation, supposedly built atop the house of Mary. That dwelling, like many of its era, was a troglodyte structure, a house built on a cave.  Is it the house of Mary? No one knows for sure, but a Byzantine and later a Crusader church were built on the spot before the current basilica was constructed in 1955-'69. It is now a parish church for some 7,000 Catholics.

Church of the Annunciation with its Madonna lily dome.
Tip: Nazareth is a city of hills. Tour buses and vans take passengers up to the church, but you will have to walk down to where the bus can park. It's not a bad walk.

The church is in two parts. The upper church is topped by a dome patterned after the Madonna lily, a symbol of the Virgin Mary, and is surrounded by walls of mosaics of Mary from around the world. I found these charming and couldn't stop photographing them.

Just a few of the many Madonnas.


The cave of Mary's house? You decide.

The Grotto or Cave of the Annunciation is in the lower church. Is it the cave where the Angel appeared to Mary to announce that the virgin was carrying the child of God? Scientists date the cave no later than the 4th century and the Greek Orthodox Church has the annunciation occurring as Mary was drawing water from a spring.  No one I saw had dates or details on the mind.

Tip: There are 11 steps from street level to the upper church level, 14 steps down and 13 steps up to and from the lower church.

A chapel marks the spot where Jesus was to have been thrown off a cliff by his neighbors.
According to our guide Ronnie, the leaders of Nazareth wanted to get rid of Jesus because of the trouble fomented by his preaching. According to legend, they planned to throw him off a cliff but Mary talked them out of it.

The best meal I had in all of Israel was at Tishreen, 56, Spring Street, near the old Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, in Nazareth, about a block from Mary's well, where they believe the annunciation occurred.

Mary's well, look but don't drink the water.

The well water is no longer potable but Tishreen's food can't be beat. You can see the recipe for their Chicken Breast in Plum and Coffee Sauce at my blog, Food Afar - Recipes from a Travel Writer.


Post a Comment