Highlights of the Church of the Visitation
While in Ein Kerem a visit to the Church of Visitation is a must, if for no other reason than its location on top of a hill with a magnificent view. The church is fairly recent, but is built on very old foundations of earlier churches. Its very pleasant court yard is surrounded by plaques with the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise, in nearly every language spoken today, neatly painted on tiles in the very old Armenian tradition still practiced in Jerusalem.
The ancient town of Ein Kerem was the home of John the Baptist, according to tradition, and has been a central point in Christian geography for many centuries. Mary’s Well has become the focal point of modern Ein Kerem, with its many restaurants, artists studios, churches and monasteries. This very picturesque town has kept its ancient character, with stone houses surrounded by beautiful gardens sprawling up the hillsides facing the sunset and a small town atmosphere.
The modern church was built in 1955, designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi, who designed many other churches in the Holy Land during the 20th century including the Basilica of All Nations in Gethsemane.
When Mary greeted her cousin Elizabeth after traveling from Nazareth to Ein Karem, Elizabeth exclaimed that the child in her womb leapt for joy. Mary then blessed the Lord in what has become known as the Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-55. This blessing is inscribed in 41 languages on one wall of the church, as mentioned above.
In 1679, the site was bought by the Franciscans and the present church was restored in 1955 on top of ancient church remains. Apparently Helena, mother of Constantine, identified this site as the home of Zechariah and the place where he and Elizabeth hid from Herod’s soldiers. Christian Crusaders later recognized it as the site where the meeting between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary took place, and erected a two-story church on the site of the ancient ruins. An ancient cistern from which, according to tradition, Zechariah and Elizabeth drank, can also be found in the church; the stone next to it is said to have hid the two from Herod’s soldiers.
Ein Kerem is full of life all week, but especially on Saturdays when the town can be quite crowded. Partly wheelchair accessible.
Nearby Places of Interest
Yad Vashem, Mount Herzl