Church of the Annunciation (Basilica of the Annunciation)
In Christian doctrine, the angel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth and told her she was going to give birth to Jesus. Built over the Grotto of the Annunciation, where some believe Gabriel appeared, the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation celebrates this miracle. Don’t confuse it with the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
Built during the 1960s, the modernist basilica towers over Nazareth Old City’s low-rise skyline, replete with mid-century details such as bare concrete that transfigure the classic domed basilica layout into a rugged shape with elements of a lantern and a lily. The lower church houses the Grotto of the Annunciation, a cave where some Christians believe Mary lived and met Gabriel that houses the ruins of a fourth-century church.
Nazareth tours depart from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Israel’s main cruise port at Haifa. Most visit other Christian sights in the Galilee area, such as the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, and include a stop at the basilica.
Things to know before you go
- Women should dress conservatively to visit the church, covering shoulders, upper arms, and knees. ID is required to borrow modest clothing.
- The modern level of the church of the Annunciation is wheelchair-accessible; the grotto is not.
- Between cobbled, hilly streets and the stone stairs to the grotto, most parents will want to leave the stroller behind.
How to get there
The Basilica of the Annunciation sits in Nazareth old town, about a 30-minute drive east of Haifa and a 90-minute drive north of Jerusalem. Buses run from Haifa to the main station by the church, but travelers from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem will need to change at Megido Junction.
When to get there
The church is open from morning until early evening; the grotto opens very early. Worshippers can enjoy silent prayer every evening, confession in the morning and mid-afternoon, and a range of services, including a candlelight procession on Saturday evening. Avoid visiting around Easter, Christmas, and Annunciation Day (generally March 25th), when things can get very busy.
Sacred Sights to See in Nazareth
According to the Christian faith, Jesus grew up in Nazareth. Besides the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, don’t miss the Church of St. Joseph, Nazareth, built over a place where some believe Jesus’ father Joseph had his carpenter’s workshop, and the unusual Synagogue-Church, built on the spot where some believe the young Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah.