Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel

St. Gabriel Church - Mary's Well Church

Useful Information

Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel, Nazareth, Israel. Public Domain.
Location: Nazareth.
(32.707083, 35.301583)
Open: All year Mon-Sat 7-17.
Fee: free, donations welcome.
Classification: Subterraneacave churches
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Greek Orthodox church, Nazareth, Tel: +972-46-576437.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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4th century first Byzantine church built.
12th century replaced by Crusader-Era church shortly after the the Crusaders’ occupation.
1263 destroyed during the Mamluk Era times by the Mamluk Sultan Baibers.
1628-1634 spring in possession of the Franciscans, who built an arched room above it.
1749 the Greek-Orthodox received a charter from Daher El-Omar, allowing them to rebuild the church.
1750 rebuilt and called the The Church of Annunciation.
1767 altar decorated by a wooden partition (iconostasis) given as a gift to the church by a rich Greek merchant.
1977-1978 church redecorated by Romanian artists.


Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel, Nazareth, Israel. Public Domain.
Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel, Nazareth, Israel. Public Domain.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel is also known as Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. The church is located over an underground well. According to Eastern Orthodox belief this is where the Virgin Mary was drawing water at the time of the Annunciation. Water from the spring still runs inside the apse of the church and it feeds the adjacent site of Mary's Well, located 140 m to the south.

She took the jar and went out to fetch water. Then a voice spoke to her: "Greetings, you who have received grace. The Lord is with you, you blessed among women." She looked right and left to see where the voice came from and began to tremble. Then she went back into the house, put the jar aside, sat down, took the purple and began to spin.
Protoevangelium of James, a 2nd-century apocryphal text.

There are actually 18 churches of the Annunciation in Nazareth. That's not really hard to understand, the Bible does not mention the exact places and speculations are futile. So depending on your favorite theory or depending on the drug infused prophet you like lost, the place may differ. It seems one time or another any possible place got its church. The Catholic Basilica of the Annunciation is located on top of the cave which was supposedly Mary's home. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is located on top of the spring, where Mary first heard the angel Gabriel's voice.

The same story was told about the well 140 m to the south which was fed by the underground spring, it is named Mary's Well because of this story. But the well 2000 years ago was a small building on top of a cistern which was connected to the spring, and it was located where the church is located today. The dry cistern is part of the underground structure of today. It seems the well known Mary's Well was constructed as a source for drinking water, after the original well was replaced by a church in Byzantine times, and a second one was built nearby for the animals. This was soon forgotten and people thought this was the location. This well was actually in use until 1966, when the town built a modern water system, and the well was abandoned and started to decay. The current well is is a non-functional reconstruction inaugurated in 2000.

However, quite strange with this story is why Mary would walk 500 m from her home and back and use this well. Her house, at least what today is thought to be her house, also had a well connected to the same spring. The spring was the only water supply of the village, but the water was redirected into channels to various parts of the town since the 2nd century BC. And obviously there were also rain water cisterns, which collected the winter rains. Its probably a good idea not to ask such questions if you want to avoid religious discussions.