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    St Anna Church 2

    January 27, 2012  by Administrator  •  Jerusalem


    The current church, erected near the remains of an earlier Byzantine basilica, and over the site of a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the birthplace of Anne the mother of Mary, was completed in 1138 by Arda, widow of Baldwin I, the first titled king of Jerusalem. The earlier Byzantine basilica had been built over what remained of a pagan shrine to either the Egyptian god Serapis or the Greek god Asclepius, both gods of healing. Unlike many other Crusader churches, St. Anne’s was not destroyed by the Mamelukes who captured the Holy Land in the twelfth century. In 1192, a year after his conquest of Jerusalem,Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn converted it into an Islamic seminary, noted by the Arabic inscription Salahiya (of Saladin) above the entrance. During the Muslim rule ofPalestine, Christian pilgrims were only permitted inside the grotto after paying a fee. Eventually the church was abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1856, in gratitude for French support during the Crimean War, the Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I presented it to Napoleon III. It was subsequently restored, but the majority of what remains today is original. Currently St. Anne’s belongs to the French government and is administered by the White Fathers, an order of the Catholic Church named for the colour of their robes.

    Design and Construction

    Built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church, and shortly thereafter enlarged by several meters, the church is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture. The three-aisled basilica incorporates cross-vaulted ceilings and pillars, clear clean lines and a somewhat unadorned interior. The nave is separated from the lower lateral aisles by arcades of pointed arches. The high altar, designed by the French sculptor Philippe Kaeppelin incorporates many different scenes. On the front of the altar are depicted the Nativity (left), the Descent from the Cross (center) and the Annunciation (right); on the left-hand end is the teaching of Mary by her mother, on the right-hand end her presentation in the Temple. In the south aisle is a flight of steps leading down to the crypt, in a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be Mary’s birthplace. An altar dedicated to Mary is located there. The Byzantine basilica was partly stretched over two water basins, collectively known as the Pools of Bethesda, and built upon a series of piers, one of which still stands today in its entirety.


    The church possesses amazing acoustics perfect for Gregorian chant, with sounds moving across the open space and up from the grotto. This makes the church a pilgrimage site for soloists and choirs, especially sopranos and tenors.

    Source : Wikipedia