Church of Saint Anne

Jerusalem, Israel

The Church of Saint Anne is a Roman Catholic church, located at the start of the Via Dolorosa, near the Lions' Gate and churches of the Flagellation and Condemnation, in the Muslim Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. The austere stone interior and extraordinary acoustics make it a fine example of medieval architecture.

During the Roman Period a pagan shrine to either the Egyptian god Serapis (Asclepius), gods of healing, stood on the grounds next to the two Pools of Bethesda. A Byzantine basilica was built over the remains of the shrine in the 5th century. Partially destroyed by the Persians in 614, it was subsequently restored. Baldwin I, the first titled Crusader king of Jerusalem, banished his wife Arda to the old Benedictine convent which still existed here in 1104. A small Crusader church, the so-called Moustier, was then erected over an extension of the northern Pool of Bethesda.

The actual Church of St Anne followed sometime between 1131 and 1138, during the reign of Queen Melisende. It was erected near the remains of the Byzantine basilica, over the site of a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the childhood home of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. It is dedicated to Anna and Joachim, the parents of Saint Mary, who according to tradition lived here.

Unlike many other Crusader churches, St. Anne's was not destroyed after Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn's 1187 conquest of Jerusalem. In 1192 Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn, known in the West as Saladin, converted the building into a madrasa (Islamic educational institution) as is still written in the Arabic inscription above the entrance. In the 15th century it was considered as the most prestigious college in the city, counting among its more prominent students the Islamic jurist and city historian Mujir al-Din (1456–1522).

During the renewed Muslim rule of Palestine, Christian pilgrims were only permitted inside the grotto after paying a fee. Eventually the madrasa was abandoned and the former church building fell into disrepair. In 1856, in gratitude for French support during the Crimean War, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I presented it to Napoleon III. It was subsequently restored, but the majority of what remains today is original. Currently St. Anne's belongs to the French government and is administered by the Missionaries of Africa, commonly called 'The White Fathers', for the colour of their robes.

Built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church, and shortly thereafter enlarged by several meters, the church is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture. The three-aisled basilica incorporates cross-vaulted ceilings and pillars, clear clean lines and a somewhat unadorned interior. The nave is separated from the lower lateral aisles by arcades of arches. The high altar, designed by the French sculptor Philippe Kaeppelin incorporates many different scenes.

In the south aisle is a flight of steps leading down to the crypt, in a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be Mary's birthplace. An altar dedicated to Mary is located there. The Byzantine basilica was partly stretched over two water basins, collectively known as the Pools of Bethesda, and built upon a series of piers, one of which still stands today in its entirety.

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Details

Founded: 1131-1138
Category: Religious sites in Israel

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Matthew Coutinho (2 years ago)
A beautiful church and many significant events of the Catholic faith are linked to this Church
Clinton Rappell (2 years ago)
The best church in the whole place. It is simplistic and the acoustics is outstanding. When we were there, there was a choir singing and it was like angels singing. The location is next to the pools of Bethesda. These actually look authentic and you can almost see how it works have been. It is in a nice quiet part of the city also. I highly recommend this place to be on the visit list.
James Dain (2 years ago)
We arrived here from Lion Gate on our way to Via Dolorosa Way of the cross) . Poof Bethesda is situated just in front with a beautiful garden in the courtyard. The church is small but beautiful. We sang hymns here and they sounded very good . Our guide told us Virgin Mary's parents Joachim and Anne had lived here.
Mark Grubb (2 years ago)
What a beautiful place. As we were singing amazing Grace in English one group joined in singing amazing Grace in an another language. An amazing acoustical wonder!
Mike Heath (3 years ago)
Traditional church but pleasant. Several people take the opportunity to sing hymns from the front. Basement is for visiting but not very convincing. Nice area with interesting ruins nearby.
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