Church of St. Gabriel
A Christian tour of the Holy Land is not complete without a stop at the Church of St. Gabriel in Nazareth, site of the Annunciation. This Greek Orthodox Church was built over the spring where Mary first heard the voice of the angel Gabriel, who told her that she would be the mother of Jesus.
Since Christianity began in Nazareth, there are 18 churches in the city dedicated to the Annunciation. The two most significant to visiting pilgrims are the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation and the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel.
The current structure of the Church of St. Gabriel was built in the 18th century, and its walls are covered in murals. The altar is hidden in keeping with the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and the church founder's tomb can be seen along one wall. Visitors touring the site can also descend seven steps to the underground chapel, built in the Crusader period. Ancient Armenian tile work decorates these walls, which lead to a small recess. Below the altar, a shaft leads down to the spring. Lower a cup to draw water from the sacred water source.
Mary's Spring flows from the mountain above the church and used to reach to Mary's Well. It was the main water source and gathering place for the city of Nazareth for many centuries. Its waters are believed to have healing powers, and both Christians and Muslims consider them holy. Exporting water from this site began in the seventeenth century, with bottles being sent to France. Bring your own bottle to take home some holy water as a souvenir.