Thursday, September 15, 2011

St. Anne's Church & Pools of Bethesda

As I continue my tour(s) throughout nooks and crannies in the Old City, a friend from class suggested that we visit St. Anne's Church & the Pools of Bethesda which are important and adjoining historical sights for those of the Christian faith. Found along a portion of the Via Dolorosa situated in today's Arab Quarter, St. Anne's Church is a beautiful structure that has remained intact over the years:


St. Anne's Church is a beautiful 12th century Crusader church which was been built upon the site of Hannah, the Virgin Mary's mother. Prior to the Crusader church, a Byzantine church stood on these grounds. Today, the remaining ruins (seen above) serve as a great example of Romanesque architecture. Over time, the Crusader church passed into the hands of Muslim ownership, Ottoman rule and even into French hands. Despite the passage of time, the original Crusader church remains intact:

 

After entering the vicinity, you will find beautiful and relaxing gardens populated with visiting tourists.  Inside these gardens, you really feel removed from the craziness outside its walls that is typical in the Arab Quarter of the Old City:

     



The church today is owned by the French government and is run by the White Fathers, a Catholic order. St. Anne's acoustics, designed for Gregorian chant, is so perfect that crowds gather around just to listen to whatever melody or chant is going on inside. We were lucky to be there during the middle of a ceremony and during which time the doors were kept open, allowing us to hear the beautiful acoustics in person:

    


Pilgrim groups come to sing at the church during the day and you too are allowed to step into the church and sing, so long as your song or hymn is a religious one. All other songs are prohibited. The 100 or so people who were walking around the grounds of St. Anne's Church came quietly to the church doors to watch the procession make its way outside:

      

     




Right next to St. Anne's Church are the Pools of Bethesda, where it is believed that Jesus once healed a paralytic. Furthermore, it is said that the Virgin Mary was born in a cave amid these pools and that her son, Jesus, would go on to perform further miracles in this same cave. For these reasons, the Pools of Bethesda are a popular stop for religious Pilgrims of the Christian faith:

    

As you can see in the above photos, the ruins (which stand beside St. Anne's Church) are still very much intact to this day. Mainly, the ruins show the remains of a Roman temple to the god of medicine as well as the remains of the Byzantine church which was later built over the Roman temple. The Pools of Bethesda are most easily accessible through the Lion's Gate and the hours of operation are from Mon-Sat between the hours of 8 am to 12 noon and from 2 pm to 5 pm (in the summer until 6 pm). The entrance fee is 10 shekels and I believe it's definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

1 comment:

  1. You are lucky to have gone to this spot -- it is one of only three Crusader-era churches still standing whole in Israel! :-)

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