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churchSt Anne's Church map

Jeusalem Old City

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Jerusalem's Old city is divided into four districts, or "quarters" as they are known: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Many of the best known churches and other Christian institutions are located within the Muslim Quarter, due to the historical fact that this part of the city was, in the 12th century, administered by the Crusaders.

St. Anne's Church, built between 1131 and 1138, was named for Anne, the mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. The church is easy to find, just a short walk up the hill from St. Stephen's Gate, also known as the Lion Gate, in the Muslim Quarter.

It is said to have been built on the site of the home of Joachim and Anne, but a few doors down the street there is another shrine at yet another supposed site of their home. In any event, St Anne's is a beautiful example of Crusader built Romanesque architecture and well worth a visit.

When Salah-a-din kicked the Crusaders out, the church became a Madrassah, a school dedicated to Muslim religious studies. This is commemorated in the inscription above the door. It was later abandoned and used as a dump. In 1856 the Ottoman Empire gave it to France. A restoration and cleanup took place. Most of the church we see today is original.

Today the church and grounds still enjoy extra-territorial status. As officially part of France, the Israeli police and armed forces cannot enter to disrupt the tranquility of the church, White Fathers (the order is named for the colour of their robes) monastery and gardens.

St Anne's Church stands next to the Pool of Bethesda, believed to be the site where Jesus healed the crippled young man (John 5:1-15). The pool has been a holy place and a place of healing for several millenia. One can see the ruins of a Roman temple to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, dating from the time of Hadrian. Jerusalemites during the time of the Second Temple reportedly believed that an angel would fly over the pool once each day, and that anyone in the pool at that time would be healed. Consequently there were always sick and crippled hopefuls lounging in the waters, waiting for a miracle. A Byzantine church dedicated to Mary was built over the temple. There may be even earlier pagan ruins beneath the Roman temple.

The accoustics of St Anne's are astounding. Any visitor is welcome to try them out by singing any religious song, of any religion. The accoustics, designed to enhance Gregorian chant, are so perfect that even my voice sounded professional.

The interior of the church is delightful in its simplicity. Unlike many of the other holy sites in the city, its unadorned walls with their clean lines invite a feeling of calm and spirituality. It is not a large church, but from the entrance appears larger than it is. As one approaches the altar, everything is slightly scaled down to present an optical illusion of much greater size. Clever architects, those Crusaders!

Beneath the church is a crypt holding an altar dedicated to Mary. From the middle of the 16th century onward, Franciscans celebrated Mass here.

Catholic masses are held in French on Sunday at 7 AM and at 6:45 AM from Monday-Saturday.

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Some views of the St Anne's Church and the Valley of Bethesda.

To view any photo at full size, click on the photo with the left mouse button.
St Annes Church

St Anne's Church.

St Anne's Church

St Anne's Church complex and gardens.

St Anne's Church

St Anne's Church complex and gardens.

St Anne's Church

St Anne's Church.

St Anne's church

St Anne's Church.

entrance

side entrance to St Anne's Church.

inscription

Main entrance and inscription.

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Madrassah inscription above entrance.

St Annes

St Anne's complex.

intereior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

interior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

interior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

interior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

interior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

interior

Interior of St Anne's Church.

ruins

The ruins with the homes of the Muslim Quarter in the background.

ruins

The pool of Bethesda, through the arch.

ruins

Ruin of the Byzantine church atop the pagan temple.

ruins

The ruins, with St Anne's in the background.

ruins

The ruins with St Anne's Church in the background.

ruins

The ruins of the Byzantine church.

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The pool of Bethesda, where Christ healed the cripple.

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The pool of Bethesda surrounded by ancient ruins.

ruins

A ruined arch, reminder that no human civilization lasts forever.

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Click on the link to visit the other pages in the Jerusalem section:

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Patti

This page was updated on 7 December 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was edited using Nvu and Style Master.

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