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Other Christian Sites

 

The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Israel and some of the areas under control of the Palestinian authority contain a number of churches and sites of special interest to Christians.  We cover the Christian sites of interest in Jerusalem in our extended Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Jerusalem.   In this section, we cover the religious sites outside of the Jerusalem that are  commonly visited by Christians.  Most of these religious sites can be found in the northern half of the country, with a important cluster around the Sea of Galilee.

Nazareth

Nazareth, the city with the largest Arab population in Israel, has many winding streets and interesting venues.  Perhaps the most popular of these is the Basilica of the Annunciation that is believed to mark the site (a cave) where the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that

she would become the Mother of God. 

The site of the present Cathedral  has been celebrated as the location of the Annunciation, since the 4th century A.D. and numerous churches and their successor churches have celebrated the location. The shrine may have reached the apex of its historic grandeur in the form of church built by the Crusader Tancred,  Prince of the Northern Territories in the early 12th century. The Crusader Church, reputed to be the largest built by the Crusaders in the Holy Lands, was damaged during an earthquake and was never fully rebuilt, as the Crusaders were expelled from the Holy Lands before the restoration was complete.

The next church to mark the site was constructed in the19th century, but torn down  to make way for the present massive Basilica , which was dedicated by Pope Paul VI in 1969.  See the official website of the Basilica for more details on visiting.  The highlight of a visit is the Grotto of the Annunciation, although the Archaeological Museum is of some interest.

          Beyond the Altar is the entrance to the Grotto of the Annunciation

 Bethlehem

Nativity Church

Interior view of the Church of the NativityBethlehem is under the control of the Palestinian Authority and entering the town is at the discretion of the Palestinian Authority.

The Church of the Nativity contains the underground  Grotto of the Nativity where many believe Christ was born.  The exact spot is marked on the floor with a silver star.   Across the room is  the  Chapel of the Manger. The Grotto area is compact and often warm and humid due to the crowds.

The original church was  built following the the instruction of Constantine 1 (4th century) at the request of his mother Helena who had determined that this was the site of Christ’s birth.  The  church was rebuilt by Justinian (6th century) and parts date from the time of the Crusaders in the 11th century.

The present Church is decorated in the style common to Orthodox churches.  The Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic religions are responsible for the upkeep and management of the facility and their inability to agree on maintenance is a primary factor in the poor condition of the building.  Worse yet, the clerics who are responsible for maintaining the building often clash with each other, as happened during Christmas 2011.

          The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Along the route to the church, there are a number of shops, many  selling hand crafted religious items  and these shops are great places to buy a gift for those interested in the religious aspects of your journey to the Holy Lands.

Sea of Galilee Area

Tiberias is a flourishing tourist center famous for its hotels, spas, tombs of the Jewish sages and numerous lunch spots along that lake that feature the "type" fish that Christ fed to the thousands (as well as a local delicacy known as the St. Peter’s fish). Tiberias, which dates from the time of Christ, became an important religious center for the followers of Judaism, especially after the Jews were expelled from Jerusalem in the 2nd century.  The city became a Christian outpost in the Holy Lands during the Crusades (the 11th and 12th centuries).


Ruins at Capernaum on the Sea of GalileeCapernaum – “the Town of Jesus”, where Jesus is thought to have met and converted many of the Apostles, is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  There are several attractions of interest in Capernaum that attract  Christian visitors on pilgrimage.

The Franciscans order acquired the ruins of the town near the end of the 19th century and today the site is an open-air museum. St. Peter’s Church (a massive modern concrete structure is cantilevered  over ruins believed to be the former home of Saint Peter.  In addition, there is a partially reconstructed synagogue where it is believed the Christ once taught.

            Underneath the modern Church of Saint Peter are the ruins of a house he lived in.

The church atop the Mount of BeatitudesTabgha - a location near Capernaum where many believe that Christ  fed a crowd of five-thousand with five loaves of bread and and two fish.

Mount of Beatitudes –  a lovely grass covered hill near Capernaum that many believe was the location at which Christ gave the Sermon of the Mount. A modest Catholic chapel, built in the last century, crowns  the hill.  Many scholars have debated the locations and  events in Christ's life and it may be that their true position is lost in the fog of history.  However, many Christians celebrate these locations and crowds are always visible.

The Gospel Trail and the Jesus Trail

In January 2011, the Israel Tourism Ministry opened a hiking trail that is approximately forty miles in length and thought to follow the routes used by Christ once he departed Nazareth to visit other locations in the Galilee.  You can find more details about the Gospel Trail at the  Tourism Ministry's website Go Israel. The page includes links to a handbook and map for traveling the Gospel Trail.

You might be interested in finding out about the Jesus Trail, a public effort that predated the Gospel Trail and one that is regarded as authentic and reputable.  The Jesus Trail is a commercial effort and offers tour packages, as well as a helpful guidebook that is regarded as the best source for a walking tour of this area.

Next - click to read about the the best archaeological sites in Israel

Or - explore our menu on the right  to find other types of sightseeing in Israel.

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Best Places To Visit in Israel

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