Church of St. Gabriel, Nazareth

Exterior of St. Gabriel's Church. Mary's Spring runs beneath the glass-covered tank in the courtyard


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.

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.


Mary's Well, a modern structure at an ancient well

Sumur Maria (dalam bahasa Arab: Ain Sitti Mariam) merupakan salah satu tempat yang paling otentik di Tanah Suci. Inilah satu-satunya sumur di Nazareth dahulu sampai sekarang. Yesus maupun Maria setiap hari menimba air dari sumur itu. Sejak dua abad, di samping Kapel Sumur Maria berdiri Gereja St. Gabriel milik umat Orthodox-Yunani. Umat itu yakin bahwa malaikat Tuhan menampakkan dirinya kepada Maria pada waktu menimba air dari sumur itu.


Mary's Well in 1900s


Mary's Well in 1928


Mary's Well 1935


"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.

Old stone canals uncovered behind Mary's Well

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.

Mary's Spring, which runs beneath the altar (just visible at the top) of the Chapel of the Spring. This is the spring that feeds Mary's Well, 100m away

 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.


The barrel-vaulted Chapel of the Spring. A narrow single aisle, sometimes crowded with pilgrims, is roofed by a barrel vault and lined with blind arcades decorated with colored marble and glazed ceramic from c.1750

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.


Wooden iconostasis in the upper level of St. Gabriel's Church, dating from 1767

The upper church has a fine wooden iconostasis, with delicate carvings and painted icons.
From the north aisle of the 18th-century church, seven steps descend to the lower chapel of the spring. Here a narrow single aisle, sometimes crowded with pilgrims, is roofed by a barrel vault and lined with blind arcades decorated with colored marble and glazed ceramic from c.1750.
At the north end of the chapel, Mary's Spring runs beneath an altar and can be peered down into. The round stone well has a lamp hanging over it and many icons of Mary have been set up around its rim.
According to a 17th-century account (the Quaresmi), a now-blocked stair on the right originally led up to convent of nuns and there was an altar in the east wall (now covered with arcades). The remains of a Byzantine bath house have recently been uncovered in the area and can be seen in a nearby cafe.

Mary's Well is located at the northern end of Rehov Masqobia, near St. Gabriel's Church.








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