Matryoshka Churches

Remember those Russian nesting dolls of wood (Matryoshka), where one sits inside another and so on and so forth? Now imagine that idea in the form of a church building. That is a good starting place for appreciating the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel.

The outer shell is very modern, built in the 20th century (supporting columns and ceiling of the room pictured above). Inside of that are fragments from an 18th century structure. Inside that are the remains of a 12th century Crusader chapel (wall with pilasters to the left). Inside that are the remains of a 5th century church (apse visible to the right) originally commissioned in the 4th century. Finally at the center of it all is a grotto or cave (visible straight ahead, behind the arch). Tradition holds that this grotto was part of the original structure that stood on the site, the home of the Virgin Mary. The same voices suggest that the reason behind all these centuries of "nesting" construction is rooted in the idea that on this spot Mary received word that she would have a baby. That baby would be the "hope of the world" (now let your mind wander to the idea of "incarnation" and read Luke 1:26-28).

Image by Bible Lands Explorer Jay Hess.


Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.