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Nazereth - Church of St. Gabriel

The Church of St. Gabriel is the Orthodox counterpart to the Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. According to Orthodox tradition, the Virgin Mary first received the news from Gabriel that she would bear the Savior while she was out fetching water. The Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel is therefore located over the spring that fed Mary's Well, the traditional place where Mary fetched water for her household.

History
Although not recorded in the Bible, the tradition of Mary receiving the Annunciation while fetching water is ancient. It is written down in the 2nd-century Christian text known as the Protevangelium of James, which fills out the biblical story of Mary and the birth of Jesus with more details.


The Protevangelium (or Proto-Gospel of James) says that Mary was one of seven unblemished virgins from the line of David chosen to weave a new curtain for the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. She was working on this task in her Nazareth home when she went out to fetch some water from the city well.


"She took the jar and went out to fetch water. Then a voice spoke to her: 'Greetings, you who have received grace. The Lord is with you, you blessed among women.' She looked right and left to see where the voice came from and began to tremble. Then she went back into the house, put the jar aside, sat down, took the purple and began to spin. Then an angel stepped before her..."


The biblical account in Luke 1:26-38 only says that "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth" and that "the angel went to her." It does not record the place of the Annunciation or what Mary was doing at the time.


The Church of St. Gabriel is built over "Mary's Spring," a natural spring that feeds the nearby ancient well known as Mary's Well. There may have been a Byzantine church here by the 6th or 7th century, but the first certain mention of it is by Abbot Daniel in 1106-08.


St. Gabriel's Church was probably always an Orthodox church, but there is some historical uncertainty about what happened during the Crusades - a few years following the conquest, Crusader sources mention a Latin priory of St. Gabriel.
From the 14th century, the church fell into increasingly bad repair, but there was always access to the chapel containing the sacred spring. The site was owned by the Franciscans and Greek Catholics for some time, but in 1741 the Greek Orthodox community gained permission from Dahir al-Umar to take over the site.
In 1750, the Orthodox community built the present church on the south side of the chapel with the spring. The wooden iconostasis was added in 1767.



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