Casa Nova Street is located towards the east of Nazareth and there I visited a number of ancient and holy sites, places of archaeological importance and artistic interest.
Basilica of the Annunciation
According to the Roman Catholic tradition, the Basilica of the Annunciation is established at the site where the Annunciation took place.
I visited this place early one morning during my stay in Israel. The church was closed and then I came to know that it opens only at 8am and closes at 6 every evening. The beauty of the art and sculpture of the church walls as seen from the very outside itself was quite spectacular. I came back again that afternoon.
At the left side of the church stands a 14 year old statue of Mary welcoming people to her home. The two-story Basilica has a modern architectural style which is colorfully decorated with carvings,signs and symbols.
The current church is build in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era which was build on a much older Crusader-era church. I entered from the west side of the church.
The church is quite peaceful and prayerful. There are wonderful color stained glass windows and mosaics depicting the Annunciation. There are also icons of Mary bought from different parts of the world.
The lower level of the church enshrines a grotto. Catholic Christians believe it to be the remains of the original cave home of Mary.
In front of the cave, there is a simple altar surrounded by seats on its three sides.
Above the cave, there is the octagonal towering cupola of the Church. The cupola represents an inverted lily opening its petals to the shrine below. It symbolically represents the purity of Mary. The dome is beautiful when viewed from both inside and outside!
Even though the church is very modern, the old parts have been preserved and protected so well!
Remains of an Old Church Synagogue
These remains found next to the Basilica of the Annunciation are well protected and is a place of archaeological interest.
Prior to the Byzantine period, the Christians had constructed a church and its remains were found under the Byzantine construction by archaeologists. There are also the remains of a primitive baptismal font, a mosaic floor, and seven steps leading to the grotto. An inscription of Greek characters XE MAPIA (translated as “Hail Mary”-the archangel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary according to the Holy Scriptures) was also found out during excavations.
Church of Joseph’s Workshop
This church is also called the Church of the Nutrition. Located near the Basilica of Annunciation, its a small church but still its a pretty interesting place…. There is a grotto underneath the church and its worth a visit!
The church was built in 1914 on the remains of a Crusader church and over a cave. Tradition asserts that this grotto is the original workshop of St Joseph, the husband of Mary. But there is no evidence to that.
A stairway in the church took me to a crypt. Through a screen of metal bars in the floor, I saw caverns. Seven further steps down from there led me to a 2 meter pit with black and white mosaic floor which is a pre-Constantine Christian baptistery used as early as the 1st century! A number of rough steps beside the basin led me to me 2 meter high chamber. My tour guide explained to me that the openings here and there that I saw were water cisterns and grain silos typical of ancient Nazareth.
This church was a quiet and serene place and I’m so glad i visited this place!
All these places in Casa Nova Street are definitely tourist hot spots, but it doesn’t feel too crowded. These places gave me the feeling of going back in history!