SAINT ANNE'S CHURCH|
Catholic - White Fathers
Located just inside the gate variously called "Lions'",
"St. Stephen's", and "St Mary's"
[#21 on the Old City map]
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"Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic
is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the
lame, the paralyzed.One who was there had been an invalid for
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this
condition for a
long time, he asked him, 'Do you want to get well?'
'Sir,' the invalid replied, 'I have no one to help me into the pool when
the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes
down ahead of me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Get up! Pick up your mat and
walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked..."
Jerusalem residents utilized a number of rain-water
reservoirs during the Second Temple period, including the double
pool called Bethesda. People with a variety of disabilities would
linger by the Bethesda pool, for its waters were believed to have
magical powers of restoration. Indeed, it is said that an angel
flew over the pools once every 24 hours; whoever happened to be
inside the water at that time would be miraculously healed!
According to one Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary was
born in a cave near the Bethesda pool where her son Jesus would
one day perform miracles of faith. The Crusaders believed that
a grotto they discovered next to the reservoir ruins was Mary's
birthplace, the home of her parents Anne and Joachim. They
incorporated the cave into a powerfully impressive church named
for Jesus' grandmother and Mary's mother, Anne.
Unlike other Crusader churches, St. Anne's was not destroyed
by the Mamelukes who captured the Holy Land in the twelfth
century. Instead, Mameluke commander Saladin converted St.
Anne's Church into an Islamic seminary and left it whole. If you
read Arabic you will find the name Salahiya (of Saladin) in an
inscription above the entrance. Today St. Anne's belongs to the
French government and is run by the White Fathers, an order of
the Catholic church named for the color of their robes.
What first strikes the visitor to St Anne's Church is its
simplicity, both within the unadorned interior and on the clear
clean lines of its facade. Yet there is also a sense of majesty,
perhaps lent by the church's stark cross-vaulted ceilings and
giant pillars. You may note that the building leans slightly to
the side. Although I have never observed this architectural
quirk, tour guides who have noticed it claim the tilt is symbolic
of Jesus on the cross.
Stone steps descend to the crypt below the church, where an
altar is dedicated to Mary and the ancient rock has been
beautifully incorporated into the shrine. During the Moslem
occupation of Israel, Christian pilgrims were permitted inside
the grotto - for a price - and it is here that the Franciscans
celebrated mass from the mid-sixteenth century on.
Probably the finest example of Crusader architecture in the
Land of Israel, St. Anne's Church possesses amazing acoustics
which make even a solitary melodic prayer pervade your being. And
when a choir sings in the church the very heavens seem to ring!
Visiting hours: Monday-Saturday 8:00-12:00; 14:00-17:00 (Sunday
Return to "Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem"