Nazareth is the cradle of Christianity, according to the new testament Jesus spent there both growing up and during His ministry years.
Very little is recorded in Scripture between Jesus’ birth and when He comes on the ministry scene and is baptized by the John the Baptist. Apart from His teaching in the temple at Jerusalem and being mistakenly left behind by his parents when He was twelve years old (see Luke 2:41-52), all that we know is that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52, NIV). Matthew 2:23 records that Joseph settled the family in Nazareth after they returned from the flight to Egypt to protect the young Jesus.
Scripture also records that the engaged Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth in the time angel Gabriel showed up to let Mary know that she would give birth to the Messiah, even though she was a virgin. These important aspects of the life of Jesus make Nazareth so popular tourism site destination for modern-day Christians .
The Church of the Annunciation
Completed in 1969, the Church of the Annunciation is the largest Christian church in all of the Middle East. The most noticeable part of the church is the massive cupola which covers the upper church. A lantern sits atop the cupola to symbolize that Jesus is “the Light of the World.” From the inside of the church looking up, the cupola looks like a huge blooming lily to symbolize the purity of Mary. This upper church serves as the Catholic church for the people of Nazareth.
The lower section of the church holds the cave believed to be Mary’s house where Gabriel appeared to Mary and informed her of God’s plan for Jesus to come to earth through her. The words: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” are inscribed over the entrance to the cave. This lower part also houses the remains of the Crusader church and the Byzantine church over which the Church of the Annunciation was built.
The Church of St. Gabriel
The Greek Orthodox tradition has Mary receiving the announcement from the angel Gabriel while she was at a well getting water. A Greek Orthodox church is constructed on this site in the center of downtown Nazareth. The modern structure was completed in 1750.
The most prominent aspect of the chapel is the beautiful and extremely detailed wooden iconostasis with intricate paintings which were added to the chapel in 1767. Just off of the chapel is a set of stairs which lead to a short hallway. At the end of the hallway is the traditional site of the well where Mary was when Gabriel appeared and shared the incredible news with her. Pilgrims can peer into the rock lined well and view the spring at the bottom.
The Synagogue Church
Luke 4 records the account of Jesus returning to Nazareth. Upon entering the Synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61. After reading the passage, Jesus sits down and announces that the words of Isaiah were being fulfilled that very day in Jesus. The crowd responded in a very unfavorable and aggressive way. They led Jesus out of the Synagogue and to the cliff outside of the city, threatening to throw Jesus off the cliff. Rather than being tossed to His death, Jesus simply walked through the crowd and left Nazareth.
The Synagogue Church is the church built on the traditional site of where that Synagogue sat where Jesus read from Isaiah. The structure was built in the 12th Century by Crusaders. The church itself is a simple building with a single hall. In the interior part of the chapel, the exposed stone of the structure makes for a rustic, unornate setting. A stone table stands at the altar with a picture illustrating the event of the Synagogue hanging behind it. From the stone table, a small alcove goes to the right off of the chapel that houses a simple window.
Rather than displaying the beauty and elaborate décor of other churches, the Synagogue Church holds beauty in its age and in the event that it commemorates.
The Church of Our Lady of the Fright
The other part of the Luke 4 passage is marked by the Church of Our Lady of the Fright. Here stands a small, one room chapel that is where tradition says Mary stood as Jesus was led to the edge of the cliff to be tossed to His death. Since it sits up on the hill outside the city, the chapel is visible from much of Nazareth. The site originally had a Crusader monastery on it, and in 1882 a Franciscan church was built. The church was restored in 2009.
St. Joseph’s Church
This church sits over the traditional site of Joseph’s carpentry workshop and is close in proximity to the Church of the Annunciation. The site originally held a Byzantine church and a Crusader church in the 12th Century. The modern structure was built by the Franciscans in 1914.
The chapel is lined with stone arches on each side. A beautiful painting of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus as a child is over the table and altar. Other alcoves have statues and paintings depicting the life events of Joseph.
Below the main chapel is the grotto believed to be the workshop where Joseph worked or possibly even the house where Jesus lived as a child. Part of the cave has been modernized and adorned with artwork. A baptism pool that was part of the Byzantine church is also in the caves.
Mensa Christi Church
The Gospel of Mark records that after His resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples in Nazareth while they were eating a meal. The Mensa Christi (means Jesus Table) Church marks the traditional site of this meal in Nazareth. The modern church was built in 1860 but had a major renovation and restoration in 2000.
As its most prominent feature, the small church has a large rock in the shape of a table that is held to be the very table where the resurrected Jesus ate with His disciples. Traditional arches are present throughout the interior. The church itself sits in a dense part of Nazareth and is surrounded by alleys that can only be accessed by foot.
The Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent
Run by the Salesian order, the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent marks the time of Jesus as a teenager. An impressive life-size statue of the teenage Jesus is in the chapel. The church sits atop one of the highest areas of Nazareth and offers an impressive view of the city.
The Anglican Church of Christ
The second Anglican church in the Holy Land was the Church of Christ (or Christ Church) in Nazareth. I was completed in 1871, though the spire and cross were never placed on the tower because of lack of funds. The church sits close to the Church of Annunciation in the Church’s region.
The Jesus Trail
The Jesus Trail is a 61 km (38 mile) hike beginning in Nazareth and ending in Capernaum. The trail takes the traveler past numerous historical sites where Jesus’ ministry occurred. The schedule can be planned out to be a four-day hike with the average day’s hike being around 15 km (or just over 9 miles) a day.
Because of the meaningful places to see and tying those to important aspects of Jesus’ life, Nazareth would be a wonderful place to visit for any Christian.