At the northern end of Paulus VI Street, near Mary's Well, lies St. Gabriel's Church (otherwise known as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation). Many visitors do not realise that the site in Nazareth where Mary received the divine revelation (Annunciation) through the angel Gabriel is still contested to this day by the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox faiths. Whereas Catholic tradition says that Gabriel appeared to Mary at her home (over which the Basilica now sits), the Greek Orthodox (relying on a different tradition) says that Mary was visited by Gabriel as she drew water from the public well (now Mary's Well). St. Gabriel's Church sits above this well-preserved, still-functional well. Consequently, out of fairness, especially after visiting the Catholic Church, our tour group had to come here.
PROS: In keeping with Orthodox tradition, the colourful frescoes and ornate icons are a sight to see. A point of interest is the Iconostatis, a huge screen made of walnut wood, intricately carved to depict various icons of the Annunciation event, Mary with the infant Jesus, Jesus growing up, John the Baptist, different plants and animals, etc. The iconostatis was a donation from a wealthy Greek merchant who was disappointed with the church's décor when he visited shortly after its inauguration in 1767. The other centre of attraction is the open spring below the church. Pilgrims still get water there for healing purposes.
CONS: Much like many traditional churches, out of respect, there is a dress code: Cover your shoulders and bare legs. Remove your cap or hat. Leave your footwear by the door. Do not try to enter wearing shorts (like I did and was promptly reprimanded. Sorry. I had to return later in long pants.) Like Jews, it looks like men and women worship separately. Be aware. Sadly, clueless tourists go about with their noisy cohorts unmindful of ongoing worship services.
Verdict: Definitely worth a visit. Arrive early before the oncoming crush of the tourist crowd. Respect the dress code by wearing appropriate clothing. And be mindful of the worshippers. Recommended. Grade A-minus.
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