Basilica of the Annunciation
- El-Bishara St Old City
- Admission free
- Summer - 08:30-11:45 & 14:00-17:50 Mon-Sat, 14:00-17:30 Sun Winter - 09:00-11:45&14:00-16:30 Mon-Sat, 14:00-16:30 Sun
Lonely Planet review for Basilica of the Annunciation
Dominating the Nazareth skyline is the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East and one of the Christian world's most holy shrines. The church is believed to stand on the site of Mary's home where the Angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she was pregnant with the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38).
Commissioned by the Franciscan church and consecrated in 1969, architect Giovanni Muzio was told to create something 'modern, multinational and mysterious'. With its imposing dome, the church (the fifth to have stood on this spot) certainly has a modern feel. The rather weird mix of artwork, mother-and-child themed gifts donated by Catholic communities from around the world, would be the multinational factor, but where the sense of mystery lies is beyond us.
Perhaps it is to be found in the dimly lit 'lower church' downstairs, where there is a sunken enclosure focused on the apse of a 5th-century Byzantine church - itself built around the Grotto of the Annunciation, the traditional site of Mary's house. Lining the north wall behind it are the remains of a 12th-century Crusader church and some restored Byzantine mosaics.
Leave the upper level via the northern door to exit into a courtyard under which lie more excavations of ancient Nazareth including an ancient Jewish mikveh (ritual immersion bath).