Unflatteringly, the first chapter of John asks “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Still in many respects, Christianity began in Nazareth. It is revered as the site of the Annunciation and the place where Jesus spent most of his childhood. As a young man he was expelled from the synagogue for his preaching and dragged to the Precipice, ostensibly to be cast off it, but escaped by leaping from the cliff to the Jezre’el Valley below.
Lying at the southern edge of the Lower Galilee, today Nazareth is a large Israeli Arab city with a mixed Christian and Muslim Arab population.
For both the devout religious and devout church-spotters, Nazareth is quite a paradise. This city of churches is a significant pilgrimage site and a major tourist attraction. It is home to one of the largest churches in the Middle East — the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation (pictured) — and several other sites associated with the life of Jesus. Its great importance in the New Testament makes it a major destination for Christian pilgrims.
Two local churches are dedicated to the Annunciation each serving different denominations. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation — St. Gabriel is located just above Mary’s Well. The church is built over the spring where the archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary. The Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation is situated on a slope at the heart of Nazareth’s Latin Quarter and is the most iconic structure on the city’s skyline. Completed in 1966, the Basilica was built on the ruins of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches.
Adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation’s upper floor is the Church of St. Joseph (pictured) also referred to as Joseph’s Carpentry Shop.
The Precipice lies on the southern edge of town and offers good views of the Jezre’el Valley below. In the nearby neighborhood to the north are Tremor Hill and the Convent of Mary’s Fear marking the spot where a terrified Mary watched her son being led to the Precipice.
Our information is that the Basilica & St. Joseph’s are wheelchair accessible.
In the heart of Nazareth lies the Synagogue Church (pictured), a small Christian church that belongs to the Greek Catholic Melkite community. To the left of the doorway is a door that leads down to the synagogue; according to tradition, this is the place where the Jesus studied and prayed as a young man. Despite the traditional veneration towards the synagogue, archaeological evidence suggests the synagogue dating back from the 6th century A.D., the earliest. The church itself was built in the late 19th century and features a rather grand dome flanked by two bell towers.
The marketplace is also worth exploring. It’s a great place to “feel local” and experience the unique Middle Eastern market culture. Smell the spices, sample the local cuisine, and shop for the exotic souvenir items. As are the alleyways on the old town’s northern side, where there are several small carpentry shops.