Located just down the hill from Nazareth Village and near the middle of town, the Basilica of the Annuncation is a modern church (built in the 1960). It features Mary’s home in Nazareth where the angel appeared to Mary, telling her that she was to be the mother of Jesus. The modern church was built in 1965, over the ruins of earlier churches that were built around the site of Mary’s house. Unlike some other traditional sites based on hearsay without any physical evidence, there is strong evidence that the grotto area of this church was the actual house of Mary the mother of Jesus. It is a huge two-story church, and is one of the largest Christian churches in the Middle East.
We visited right at closing time, but were lucky enough to make it inside the church grounds to check things out before it closed. On the walls surrounding the church, mosaics and art pieces from many countries with depictions of Mary or Mary with baby Jesus. It was so neat to see these beautiful mosaics and mixed media art pieces from all over the world!
From the entrance courtyard, we entered the church on the bottom floor. The church is fairly plainly decorated on this level, with the focal point being the original grotto that was Mary’s house. There was a gate and some nuns and worshipers were actually allowed to go inside of the grotto. For normal tourists and visitors, we lined up and walked by the grotto. It was awesome to see the actual place where the angel appeared to Mary! Unfortunately, Owen, our 17-month-old had had a long day and was not very happy about being held as we checked out the grotto.
From the bottom floor, we climbed up the stone staircase up to the 2nd floor. This level had many of the features that I appreciate about Catholic churches- beautiful stained glass, large murals, and more mosaics of Madonna and Child! I think the most unique/modern looking rendition was from the United States. I geeked out at the organ, as always, and enjoyed the large concrete dome built to look like a flower from the inside.
The exit led us out onto a terrace on the second floor where we could see various excavations of ancient Nazareth with signs explaining the ruins. From there, we could exit the complex straight up the hill, or head back down to the main courtyard with a religious souvenir store and head out the same way we came in. We were able to see everything in the complex and spend a good amount of time on each floor of the basilica in about an hour. With the many stairs, this site was not very stroller friendly and we just carried Owen from our parking to the church and back. We stopped for falafel and schwarma at a very small restaurant close by- it was really good! There is a limited amount of street parking. We used Google maps to find the Basilica, but found that the app took us up above the entrance to the church, and it was almost impossible to get out of the extremely narrow streets and haphazardly parked cars. So- learn from our mistakes, and when you see the Basilica up the hill from the bigger, main road, find parking along it and walk from there!