Jerusalem - The gothic nave of St. Anne gothic church as the first station of Via Dolorosa or Via crucis.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

St Anne’s Church


The finest example of Crusader architecture in Jerusalem, St Anne's was completed in 1138 on a site thought to have been the home of Joachim and Anne, parents of the Virgin Mary. One of the sunken pools accessed from the rear of the church compound is traditionally thought to be the biblical Pool of Bethesda where Jesus is said to have healed a sick man (John 5:1–18). Many groups walking the Via Dolorosa stop here first.

Inside this enigmatic Romanesque structure, slender vaults lift the gaze, and the church's renowned acoustics spur countless visitors (in particular Christian pilgrim groups) to burst into song.

The earliest traces at this site have hinted at a Roman-era pagan shrine to the god of medicine, and ruins can still be seen in St Anne's gardens. When Jerusalem fell to the armies of Saladin, St Anne’s became a Muslim theological school – an inscription above the church’s entrance testifies to this. Successive rulers allowed the church to fall into decay, so by the 18th century, it was roof-deep in refuse. In 1856, the Ottoman Turks presented the church to France in gratitude for its support in the Crimean War against Russia, and it was reclaimed from the garbage heap.

It is still owned by the French and run by an order of Catholic missionaries called Les Peres Blancs (White Fathers) for their white-robe wearing priests. Because they work solely in Africa, it's an especially important stop for groups of African pilgrims who usually sing hymns inside the church.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Jerusalem attractions

1. Lions' Gate

0.04 MILES

This easterly gate of Jerusalem's Old City points towards the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. Although originally called Bab Al Ghor (Jordan Valley Gate),…

2. Via Dolorosa

0.15 MILES

The road leading from Lions' Gate into the heart of the Old City is known as Via Dolorosa or the Stations of the Cross. It’s the route that many…

3. 1st Station, Via Dolorosa

0.15 MILES

The 1st Station, where Pontius Pilate is said to have condemned Jesus, is inside the working Islamic Al Omariyeh school near Lions' (St Stephen's) Gate…

4. Terra Sancta Museum

0.18 MILES

Yet another high-quality archaeology museum in the city, this one run by the Franciscans and showcasing their New Testament–period collection of artefacts…

5. 2nd Station, Via Dolorosa

0.18 MILES

The 2nd Station is in the Franciscan Church of the Condemnation, to the left after you enter the church compound. This is where it is believed Jesus…

6. Tomb of the Virgin Mary

0.19 MILES

Centuries of candle smoke have blackened the walls of this subterranean shrine, one of Christianity's holiest sites. According to tradition, this is the…

7. Garden of Gethsemane

0.19 MILES

After a night of feverish prayer, Jesus is believed to have been arrested in this garden (Mark 14:26, 32–50), now attached to the Church of All Nations…

8. Tomb of Zechariah

0.19 MILES

The tent-roofed Tomb of Zechariah, flanked by Ionic columns, is carved out of rock. According to Jewish tradition, this is where the prophet Zechariah is…