Visitors seeking out the best-preserved Crusader church during their journey to Jerusalem should seek out the Church of St. Anne. The St. Anne Chapel is the traditional home site for Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and is the birthplace of his mother, the Virgin Mary.
The Church of St. Anne is north of Temple Mount and sits in a courtyard filled with trees, shrubs and flowers.
Located near the church is the excavation site of the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a sick man, as told in John 5:2-9.
While the New Testament doesn’t tell us about the birthplace of Mary, an ancient tradition that was recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of James says her parents’ house was close to the temple area.
The church was built around 450 to commemorate the spot where the Virgin Mary was born.
The Church of St. Anne is built with thick walls, making it look like a fortress. However, it has a simple design, which offers a space for prayer without enabling the visitor to be distracted.
Many know the Church of St. Anne for its amazing acoustics and echoes. Even a small choral group can sound like a large congregation when singing within the cathedral.
St. Anne’s survived through the Muslim conquest in 1189, when a lot of other churches were destroyed. Instead, the sultan Saladin turned it into an Islamic law school.
A few centuries later, the building became abandoned.
After the Crimean War, St. Anne’s was in ruins. France decided to perform a major restoration and restored it as close as they could to the original structure. St. Anne’s was again damaged during the Six Day War, so the building needed a second restoration.
St. Anne’s is covered with illustrations from the Virgin Mary’s life. The Annunciation the Descent of Jesus from the Cross and the Nativity of Jesus are all depicted on the high altar.
On the left of the altar, an illustration depicts Mary being educated by St. Anne. On the right is the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple.