Of Caves and Cathedrals

Okay, here’s the promised post about Nazereth. It’s actually mainly pictures, as it’s three in the morning and I have a bunch of reading to do tomorrow.

So – I took the early bus to Nazareth, which is about an hour and a half’s ride from Tel Aviv (yech, I really don’t like the Central Bus Station) and proceeded to get off at the wrong bus stop. I was in Natzeret Illit, which is just up the hill from Natzeret (Nazareth) proper, and is newer, with the main population being Jewish. This is in contrast to Nazareth, which has a majority of Arab Christians and Muslims.

Some of Nazareth, coming down the highway towards it

My first stop was the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is administered by the Franciscan Order. Getting to it involved walking up the main street, which is a narrow, two-lane affair flanked by lots of cars, stones, falafel joints, and car repair shops. One thing about Nazareth: they don’t seem to know about street signs. At all. I don’t remember seeing a single one. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. The streets have names, and really random ones – they’re just not marked. So I got lost several times. At least this seems to be standard procedure by now.

Basilica of the Annunciation. I know for sure that the Latin in the picture above is from Isaiah 7:14: “And the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The courtyard walls were decorated with tile/mosaic art of Mary sent from around the world. I was especially interested in the ones from Asia.

A detail of the one from Poland

One of the doors into the basilica proper. This one depicts the life of Christ (or, if I want to annoy religious Jews: Yeshua haMashiach). He’s the one it’s all about.

Part of the inside. Stained glass is awesome!

Looking at the Grotto of the Annunciation. Tradition (though not Greek Orthodox) has it that Mary was here when the angel Gabriel announced (not annunced) that she would be the virgin mother of Immanuel, as per the prophecy in Isaiah.

More stained glass and Latin on the stairwell up to the main worship area of the basilica

More stained glass! These have scenes from the life of Christ.

The mandatory upwards shot of the cone/dome thing. The skylight is over the sanctuary, whose floor opens to the grotto below.

The side of the sanctuary – more international Marys.

The underground part of the Church of St. Joseph, who in my humble opinion doesn’t get enough credit. The church is also on the Franciscan grounds, and claims to be where Joseph had his workshop/house – which would be where Jesus actually lived for – well, most of his life.

The baptismal (really, really old) in the underground part of the church. This particular underground area was also used as a grain storage facility in previous centuries.

After spending some time being the only person in the church, I went back to the Basilica to explore some more, and happened across a service – a Spanish mass, I believe – being held in the area surrounding the grotto. So I joined them. Yeah. And took communion with them. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t inappropriate of me, and they didn’t appear to be offended. I am, after all, Christian, and as far as I know, that’s the only stipulation for participating. If you have any complaints, there’s a comment box below, and I’ll attempt to respond appropriately.

Random interesting (probably centuries-old graffiti) carvings in the stone of the Greek Orthodox Church, which also claims to be on the site of Mary’s well, where (according to them – the Gospels don’t say anything for or against a well) the angel appeared to her. The water is supposed to have some sort of healing power (definitely not mentioned in the Bible).

Awesome chandelier. The Greek Orthodox Church seems to go for the heavy, ornate styles.

Mary’s well

So – those are some of my pictures. I took more, but these are a good sample. I must say that Nazareth itself wasn’t too impressive – peaceful, yes, with an extremely diverse population walking its tight, winding streets, but I think that the feeling of “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” still applies.

Since it was dark by then, I made my way back to Tel Aviv and my free dorm bed – although how I got there is another story in itself.


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