Church of Annunciation, Nazareth
What is the Annunciation Church?
The Annunciation Church stands on the land that is believed to be the Virgin Mary’s childhood home in Nazareth. As stated in the bible, it is here that the Angel Gabriel descended from Heaven to inform her of her pregnancy with the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The term annunciation is now defined as the announcement of something, but was first used as the announcement of the incarnation to Mary by Angel Gabriel, thus naming the church as the Church of Annunciation.
Over the various years there have been many churches at the site, where they have been built to commemorate this holy site. In total, four churches have been built here to mark the place of Mary’s upbringing and her visit from Angel Gabriel. The earliest church was built in the 4th century, which was then followed by various building and enhancing on the original church. The latest change to the church was in 1969. When visiting the church, you can see the previous parts of the church that were built and how they have been incorporated into the latest structure, including parts of Mary’s home. This invites and brings many people from all around the world, mostly Christians, to behold the sites available at the church.
The Church of Annunciation
The present design of the church was by someone called Giovanni Muzio. This was completed in 1969, around 50 years ago today. This church is recognized as one of the largest churches in the whole of the Middle East and has a basilica status, meaning the church has been conferred by the pope with various privileges.
There are two levels within the church, the upper and lower level. The church itself reaches a height of 59.5 meters above the grows at its peak and ventures below the ground, being the lower level is the Holy Cave or grotto as it is called. The grotto is recognized as Mary’s childhood home and is now recognized as the site of annunciation. Here is also where the original church structures can be seen, where the original structure’s remains are situated and visible throughout the church, allowing you to see the church through the years.
Behind the cave sits a stone wall which was first constructed in the 12th century by the Crusaders. There is a mosaic on the floor from the 5th century, and an ancient column that is believed to be from the 4th century. On the upper level is an altar, which underneath bears one of the world’s largest mosaics. There are several ways to see the Holy Grotto, Mary’s former home from within the church. Above the grotto there is an octagonally shaped opening in the upper level of the church, where people can look down directly onto the grotto and there is a staircase that will lead from the grotto to a smaller cave. This cave is believed to be the kitchen. From here it then leads to the exit of the church, leading to the outside of the church and the exterior courtyard.
There is a cupola designed with a flower in mind, a Madonna lily, bearing the petals and the within of the flower that sits at the top of the church. The reason for the flower is because it represents Mary and her purity, being the Virgin Mary, and how she brought the Son of God into the world. The upper level of the church is used as the Nazareth Catholic parish church where they host the various ceremonies and pray to God.
The Features of the Church of Annunciation
Within the church there are many different things to feast your eyes upon. Outside of the grotto, the church bears a lot of mosaics and statues. One of the statues prominent within the church is the one of a young Mary as she was visited by the Angel Gabriel. This statue is found near to the south entrance of the church.
The church also bears large bronze doors, with some of the major events that occurred within Jesus’ and his mother’s life. Some of these are the journey to Bethlehem and Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Church of Annunciation showcases many different mosaics with the total being 43, one of them being one of the world’s largest. There is a large number of different mosaics around the church, where some of them are found within the church yard and others within the church itself. They each display various points in time of the story of Mary and the young baby Jesus, all donated by Christians from all over the world. Because of this, they all have a bit of a different twist on the design and all reflect their country of origin, displaying the way that the country depicts the story of the birth of Jesus. Some examples of countries who donated these mosaics are Spain, Italy, Japan and many more.
The beautiful thing about these mosaics is that they are vastly different in design, but talk of the same story. An example of this is there is a mosaic donated from China, where the mosaic shows Mary as being a Chinese lady and the American mosaic shows Mary as being black. Nonetheless, the story of the birth of Jesus is shown through all of these mosaics, each with their cultural twist.