The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is not only the largest Christian establishment in the Middle East, but it is part of one of the most important archaeological finds in Christian history. The Annunciation Church houses the original cave where it is said that Mary lived and received her calling from the Angel of God, as well as other excavation articles in the lower level, and a parish church in the upper level. In addition to the many Christians who make pilgrimages to this site in honor of the Blessed Virgin, many travelers visit this archaeological site simply for its beauty and the intriguing history behind it.
The site of the Church of the Annunciation Nazareth has long been a religious site. During the Byzantine era, a church stood here until the Crusades, when it was destroyed. After its demise, a Crusader church was built in its place; it was damaged by an earthquake and remained so, as the Crusaders were driven out of Nazareth in 1187 during the Battle of the Horns of Hattin.
The church was abandoned for decades until the ruins were purchased by the Franciscan fathers with the permission of the Druze, a separate religious community in control of the area. They constructed a church in the eighteenth century; this church was later demolished to make way for a complete excavation of the area, during which time several important discoveries were made. Today, the Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest in the Middle East, preserves the hallowed cave of the annunciation, as well as remnants of the archaeological finds.
Before any Annunciation church stood on this location, there was only a simple cave and the small town of Nazareth. A thorough excavation took place before the construction of the current Church of the Annunciation Nazareth was completed. Artifacts from the excavations show where Mary lived and received the annunciation; nearby, there was another cave where she drew water from a natural spring and the synagogue where Jesus taught. An altar was built within the cave even before the construction of buildings.
Many people of different nations make pilgrimages every year, and the Basilica of the Annunciation is one of the most important Christian sites in Israel, where followers gather for masses and to celebrate their faith. Aside from being a pilgrimage destination, the church of the Annunciation Nazareth is a popular attraction for many people of various backgrounds. Travelers interested in the history of Israel or religious history in the Holy Land will find this site well worth including on the itinerary, along with similar sacred sites such as the Temple Mount or the Garden of Gethsemane.
Visitors planning a visit to northern Israel will have many opportunities for sightseeing and historical tourism available during their vacation. Haifa is one of the most popular cities in the country with a host of attractions, and here, on Mount Carmel, travelers will find the Annunciation Church as well as one of the finest gardens in the world, the Bahai Gardens, also known as the Hanging Gardens of Haifa. Archaeologists have uncovered twenty layers of history in Nazareth, and it is now a great place for vacationers to learn a bit about the eras gone by and the history of the faith of today’s Christians.