Suitcase and World: Basilica of the Annunciation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Basilica of the Annunciation.

Today was suppose to be my last day in Israel. More about the change in plans later.

I woke up this morning in Kibbutz Lavi with plenty of time to have a quick breakfast, finish packing and check out. It was another picture perfect day in Galilee. I'm getting really spoiled by this delicious weather.

At 8:30a, on the dot, everyone was in the van. I took my spot in the front passenger seat which I have laid claim to since leaving Tel Aviv.

Bye Kibbutz Lavi.  It's been an enjoyable stay!
Our first destination of the day would be Nazareth. After two days of being in Galilee, I had gotten accustomed to seeing the fields of vegetables and wildflowers.

On the way to Nazareth, we entered the small town of Cana and immediately got snarled into a traffic jam - morning rush hour.....even in this small, remote highland town!

The buildings of the modern day town of Nazareth clings to one of the hillsides in Galilee.

Uri deftly negotiated the van up the narrow winding streets of the town. Obviously, he's been here countless times so finding a parking spot is a no brainer - he has his spots.

Then gray colored roof of the Basilica of the Annunciation.  Photo taken from the parking lot where our Uri put our van.

Coincidentally, located between the van and our sightseeing spot, the Basilica of the Annunciation, was a small souvenir shop. More shopping and more Russians. Arghhh!! After the store owner did his spiel about the jewelry that his shop has to offer along with the deal of the day (buy one get second product of lesser value for free), I walked around the shop to see if there was anything interesting. You name the typical souvenir item and I am sure the store had one referencing Jesus and/or Mary.

Better view of the Basilica of the Annunciation.

Nazareth.  I'm standing at the front door of the souvenir shop.

The other two women were caught up looking at jewelry which is a bore for me so I told Uri I would meet them at the entrance of the Basilica.

I followed my instincts and headed up the street and found the Basilica which was established at the site where, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place. In contrast, Greek Orthodox tradition holds that this event occurred while Mary was drawing water from a local spring in Nazareth, and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was erected at that alternate site. Today, we were visiting the Roman Catholic Church.

The Basilica's gated entranceled into a small courtyard. On the perimeter of the courtyard was a covered portico.

On the walls were depictions of Mary, donated by various countries around the world. It was interesting to see how each country interpreted Mother and Child. I walked around looking for Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico as she is their great religious icon and I was surprised to see that Mexico was not represented.



Side of the Basilica.

Pretty planter box.

More versions of the Virgin Mary from Spain, Colombia, Scotland and Wales.

Looking at the facade of the Basilica, above the front entrance.

Carvings depicting St. Matthew and St. Mark.
Carvings depicting St. Luke and St. John.

Just about the time I finished my walk about the plaza, Uri had arrived with the others. I rejoined the group. We started our tour with Uri standing beside the massive bronze doors. On the door were carvings depicting the major events in the life of Mary and Jesus.




Can't remember what this event was.

Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus.

A side door with scenes from the Bible.
The first shrine, that existed on this site, was probably built sometime in the middle of the 4th century, comprising an altar in the cave in which Mary had lived. Over the centuries, the Basilica was destroyed and rebuilt by both the Byzantines and the Crusaders.

The previous Basilica was demolished in 1954 and construction of the current two-story building, designed by Italian architect Giovanni Muzio took place from 1960-69. The Basilica is used by the Latin parish and it remains under the control of the Franciscans. It is the largest Christian sanctuary in the Middle East and was dedicated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, believed by many Christians to be the remains of the original childhood home of Mary.

Tourists crowded in front of the fence that protects the ruins of the house.

I had expected a throng of people to be at the Basilica as was the case with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity but there was no crowd here. It was nice to be able to take our time to see the place versus having to swim along like fish in a school.

In the background, you can see the steps leading down into the house which would have been a very modest home.

I saw a lot of people using their iPads to take photos. Works well.

Looking back at the room, Grotto of Annunciation on the left.  iPad guy is still standing there.

The *church* part is located on the upper level. It's a very modern looking interior - not at all what I expected!

There were more depictions of Mother and Child as interpreted by different countries.

Here, I found Lady of Guadelupe from Mexico flanking one side of the side entrance. I recognized her by her green colored robe :-)

I took a short video of the interior of the church.  I didn't think the photos I took would do it justice.

When we exited the Basilica, we passed the ruins of the ancient village of Nazareth which was partly carved of the soft local rock.  Those parts are the best preserved ruins.  There was a cistern for storing rainwater, silos set on different levels for storing food, a wine press, a bread oven and stables for livestock.

There were lots of paintings of Mary but this was the only sculpture.
It was a short visit to the Basilica but for me, it was just enough.  You could easily spend a week in Israel just visiting churches and monasteries. It's unbelievable how many there are in this small country!

A view of the Basilica from the front.  Entrance is thru the gate on the right.

Nazareth is now a tourist hotspot.  Lots of souvenir shops!

On our way back to the car, I asked Uri about a sign that I had seen outside a bakery.  "What's taboon bread?", I asked.

Uri replied, "It's bread baked in a wood oven."  We stepped inside the bakery and there was the oven.  The smell of the freshly baked bread was divine.  I was stuffed to the gills from breakfast so I wasn't hungry for bread but the greedy side in me was tempted.

When Uri said he was going to buy a piece, I thought he was buying one for all of us to try but no, it was just for him :-( He didn't ask any of us if we wanted a piece and I, for one, did not speak up so my loss. Oh well.

We had just started our day of sightseeing so it was back in the van and on to our next destination, the Church of the Transfiguration.  The church is located high up on Mount Tabor.  Yesterday, Uri had tried to point out the church to us but clouds obscured the view of the top of the mountain.   This will be our last visit to a church.

As Uri drove on, I used my Blackberry to check for the weather report for DC.  As of now, the forecasters are still predicting a massive snowstorm to hit tomorrow night, around the time I'm scheduled to leave Newark Airport for Reagan National.  I'm seriously considering delaying my return home by a day and have told Uri that I will need his help to make my arrangements.  Staying back in Israel for another day is not a bad thing!  I'm really liking this country!