St. Gabriel Church is suggested by the Greek Orthodox to be the place of Annunciation. In the crypt of the church flows Mary’s spring, the source of Mary’s well.
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* Mary’s spring
There are actually several churches dedicated to St. Gabriel in Nazareth, as St. Gabriel is a significant figure in the Christian faith and is associated with the Annunciation. One of the most famous churches dedicated to St. Gabriel in Nazareth is the St. Gabriel’s Church, which is located near the Mary’s Well in the center of Nazareth. This church is built over an ancient spring that is believed to have been the site of the Annunciation, where St. Gabriel appeared to Mary. The church is also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation or the Church of St. Gabriel the Archangel.
Proto. of James (11): “And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water…”.
Note that the Catholics have an alternative location of the Annunciation, also dedicated to St. Gabriel – at the Basilica of Annunciation.
St. Gabriel Greek-Orthodox Church is located in the center of the downtown Nazareth, on the main road, near Mary’s Well water trough structure. According to the Greek Orthodox tradition, this was the place where Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, was announced by the angel Gabriel that she will have a son of God.
History of the place:
- Byzantine period:
In the 3rd Century AD a church was built over the springs, following the tradition that the spring was the place of the annunciation. It was later destroyed by the Arab conquest of the 7th century, and rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century. Then it was destroyed again after their defeat (1263).
- Ottoman period:
In 1767 St Gabriel Church was rebuilt on top of the ruins of the Crusader Church. The Crusader’s stones around the spring were left intact. The spring is located in the crypt of the church.
A section in the wall painting in St Gabriel Church, with an illustration of the Annunciation
- PEF survey:
Conder and Kitchener of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) surveyed the area during the Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) in 1874-75. Their report of Nazareth described St. Gabriel in the Greek quarter of Nazareth (Volume 1, pp277-278) :
“The Virgin’s Well is about 600 yards from the Latin monastery, northeast of Nazareth. Immediately north of it is the Greek Church of St. Gabriel, which was rebuilt about the end of the last century. The spring of water rising just north of the high altar is conducted past it on the left, and there is an opening in the floor of the church to the conduit, which carries the water south to the Virgin’s Well. This arrangement is mentioned in 700 A.D.”.
- Modern period:
The church is open to the public, and is a favorite tourist site.
You can drive on the main road of downtown Nazareth and park near Mary’s well, then walk around it and up the stairs. St. Gabriel is a remarkable Church and a highly recommended site.
The following photo shows the the church from the area near Mary’s Well. In the foreground, a glass lid covers the pipe that flows the spring’s water to Mary’s well trough (which is behind this spot).
A view of the entrance to the church is seen below.
The Church in the entrance level is impressive and charming, as can be seen in the following photo.
The “Templon”, the decorated covered screen with icons and paintings, separates the hall and the altar behind the center table. Some of the paintings on the screen are seen in the photos below.
Mary and infant Jesus are one of the paintings decorating the wooden screen.
Another icon on the wooden screen is seen below.
A detail of the ceiling with paintings from Jesus life, and the golden chandelier hanging above, are seen in the photo below.
(c) Mary’s spring
In the ground level, at the edge of the hallway, there is a gentle flow of water. This spring is believed by the Greek Orthodox to be Mary’s Spring, the site of the Annunciation.
A detail of Mary’s spring is seen below. The waters flow outside via pipes to the trough known as Mary’s well.
The photo below shows a view from the spring towards the entrance to the church.
Luke (1: 26-38)
In this text is the story of the annunciation:
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her”.
(b) Protoevangelium of James (11)
This text tells the story of the annunciation – the place where Mary fetched water. The Greek Orthodox accepts this book as a tradition, and therefore built their church near the site of the Well.
“And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, thou who hast received grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women! And she looked round, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher; and taking the purple, she sat down on her seat, and drew it out. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before her, saying: Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found grace before the Lord of all, and thou shalt conceive, according to His word.”
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