GPS coordinates: 32.70219, 35.2974
Structure is visible in Google maps.
In the 1955 excavations, the remains of a Byzantine church with three wings, a pronaos, and a small monastery were found about half a meter below the level of the Crusader building. The monastery was situated south of the church and projected beyond the boundaries of the Crusader building. The Byzantine church closely resembles others from the fourth and fifth centuries, such as the Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. It contained several mosaic floors, of which only fragments have survived; they are sufficient, however, to reveal several repairs. The stylobate (0.9 m wide), which was raised above the mosaic floor, consisted of a double row of stones arranged in diagonal courses, held together by iron cramps. The perimeter walls (0.6 m wide) were built of only one row of stones laid in diagonal courses. The floor of the nave was laid at a different level from that of the northern aisle. (The Grotto of the Annunciation continued to serve as a place of worship instead of the northern aisle until the modern church was built. It was therefore impossible to excavate it.) Architectural elements (not found in situ)- for example, capitals decorated with crosses on all four faces- helped to clarify the plan of the Byzantine church.
Bellarmino Baggati, “Nazareth,” in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Ephraim Stern, Ayelet Lewinzon-Gilboa, and J. Aviram, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society & Carta, 1993), 1105.
Various architectural materials were found out of place including a base of a column and corresponding cushion, a small post for an altar or ambo, a fragment of an altar table, small post of a screen, panels fragments of screens with grapes, cross, and crown, fragments of inscriptions, a capital for a ciborium or iconostasis, and a small fluted column.
Bellarmino Bagatti, Excavations in Nazareth, Publications of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum ; No. 17 (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1969), 110.
Eleven different fragments of mosaic were identified in the excavation. Summing up the technical data, we find these characteristic marks: 1) the mosaic of the central nave (No. 1) appears singular in part on account of its extra-classical style, the only one to employ the colour vermilion, and rare for the promiscuous use of big and little tesserae. Very like to this is the mosaic of the little grotto (No. 3) marked by a great sobriety of colours. 2) The mosaics of Conon (No. 2), the lower one of the south nave (No. 4), that of the sacristy (No. 6) and possibly also that of the convent (Nos. 8-10), appear to be of the same material and style, judging from the size of the cubes and the use of classical motifs. 3) The upper one of the south nave (No. 5) is independent. 4) Also apart, on account of the roughness of its composition, is the mosaic of the atrium (No. 11).
The study of the mosaic subjects brings us to certain considerations. There are religious signs: the monogram cross and the simple cross in different forms. The former has two examples: within the crown and isolated: the latter is within squares, isolated and with other small complementary crosses. And so, the use of these signs does not appear as an isolated case, but the ordinary procedure. This leads us to the period prior to the decree of 427 of Theodosius II, forbidding the putting of the cross in pavements, although the order of Theodosius was not always observed, as, for example, in the mosaics of Jerash. The motifs used in the pavements, where the sacred signs are found, are known from other mosaics of 4th. and 5th. centuries. For example, the motif of the fish scales, as it is in the south nave, is frequently found in the octagonal basilica of Capharnaum, and in other places which can go back to the 5th. century as at Kh. Luga, or at ‘Ein Hanniya, Tabor, or to the 6 century as at Jerash. The motif of the crown was already in wide use in the Constantinian period. The motif of the squares decorated with zigzag lines, forming designs, and the squares themselves united by lines which crossed, as it is in the inscription of Canon, is known from the mosaics of Antioch, dated to the year 325.
Bagatti, Excavations in Nazareth, 105–7.
Assuming a 5th century foundation, the history of the church can be traced through the records of Pilgrims. The Anonymous Pilgrim of Piacenza visited in 570 and saw the house of Mary transformed into a church. In 670, the French pilgrim Alculf found Nazareth in peace with two big churches in the first decades following the Muslim conquest. But in 722-723 Yazid II ordered destruction of images in churches because they are forbidden in the Koran. The pilgrim Willibald who visited Nazareth shortly thereafter in 724-726 found only one church in Nazareth under Moslem control. The church over the house o Joseph was in ruins. One church only is mentioned in the Life of Sts. Helen and Constantine (9-11th century). The Commemorationum de Casis Dei of 810 mentions 12 monks at Nazareth. In the journal of the Muslim El Mas’udi of 943, who saw Nazareth, a church greatly honored by the Christians is mentioned. The building of the Crusader basilica probably began in the second half of the twelfth century. The new church, a Romanesque structure built on the ruins of the Byzantine church, incorporated the Grotto of the Annunciation and the crypt to its north.
Bagatti, Excavations in Nazareth, 21-26.
Briand, J., The Judeo-Christian Church of Nazareth, Jerusalem, 1984.
Bagatti, B., Excavations in Nazareth. Vol. 1: From the Beginning till the XII Century, Jerusalem, 1969.
Bagatti, B., “Nazareth,” in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, ed. Ephraim Stern, Ayelet Lewinzon-Gilboa, and J. Aviram, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society & Carta, 1993), 1103-5.
- mono-apsidal with a room to the south (only a portion of the interior wall survives)
- fragments of decorative elements (see above)
- The church contained several mosaic floors, of which only fragments have survived; they are sufficient, however, to reveal several repairs.
- Attached south room to the east
- Attached south room to the west
[possibly part of a small monastery]
- under the floor of the nave, a stepped pool was discovered that the excavators identify as a pre-Byzantine baptismal pool.
- Protruding apse
- Entrances from the east on either side of the apse
- Π-shaped chancel
- Multiple entrances on all sides
- Ambo on the south
- Exterior chapel to the north
- Π-shaped chancel
- Inscribed mono-apsidal
- Room on both sides of the apse
- West entrance
- Ambo on south
- Baptistry in room south of the apse or in the south aisle
- Separate south chapel
- South entrances from side rooms/chapels
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel
- Tri-apsidal usually inscribed
- Altars in the side apses
- Relics and Reliquaries
- Ambo to the north
- Baptistry outside off the atrium or the north aisle
- Marble furnishings (high status imperial association) and imported fine wares
- Decorative elements on chancel screens [specify]
- Separate north chapel
Syrian to Roman conversion
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel replacing Π-shaped chancel
- Side apses inserted into rooms adjacent to the main apse
- Separate north chapel (suppressed south chapel)
- Liturgical furniture with decorative motifs like those at St. Clemente in Rome
Some affinities with the Syrian plan (mono-apsidal with adjacent room[s?]). Probably indeterminate.