The Holy Land, which is considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims, is positioned in modern-day Israel, the Palestinian territories, western Jordan, southern Lebanon and southwestern Syria.
The Land of Israel is considered sacred for Christians as events such as Jesus Christ’s birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection occurred in this region.
But what is the significance of the churches?
Most churches in the Holy Land are established over sites which marks an event of Christian history, so that pilgrims can experience and be as close to the actual sight where the miracles took place.
1. Memorial Church of Moses, Mount Nebo, Jordan The significance of Mount Nebo is mentioned in the Old Testament where God showed Moses the Promised Land, which he would never enter. Moses also died and was buried on this mount, though his place of burial is still unknown. Outside the Memorial Church, stands tall the Brazen Serpent Monument. It symbolizes the bronze snake created by Moses and the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Read : Deuteronomy 34 : 1-8, Numbers 21 : 4-8
2. Church of Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel The Church of Annunciation is established over the cave that is believed to be the house of Mother Mary. This is the spot where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and informed her that she is carrying the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Within the church, the upper level church is the parish for the Catholic community of Nazareth while the focal point of the lower level church is the grotto.
Read : Luke 1 : 26-38
3. St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth, Israel Not too far from the Church of Annunciation stands the St. Joseph’s Church which is believed to have been built over the carpentery workshop of Joseph, Mary’s husband. Later traditions identify this place as the House of Joseph and the Holy Family.
4. Wedding Church at Cana, Kafr Kanna, Israel Cana, Galilee is famously known for the incident where Jesus performed his very first miracle – turning water into wine during a wedding feast. The Bible states that there were six jars during the feast, but today, there is just one stone jar which is further broken into half; this is claimed to be one of the original jars.
Read : John 2 : 1-11
5. Church of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, Israel Overlooking the Sea of Galilee and a beautiful garden, the Church of Beatitudes is supposedly the spot where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. The church is octagonal in shape which represents the eight beatitudes (blessings) narrated by Jesus in his sermon.
Read : Matthew 5 : 1-12
6. Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel The Church of the Multiplication is best known for one of Jesus’s greatest wonders – feeding five thousand people by miraculously multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. The most noteworthy feature of this church is the limestone slab which is known as the Table of the Lord. This is believed to be the surface on which Jesus laid the loaves and the fish. On the floor beneath the table, the mosaic work depicts a basket of loaves flanked by two fish.
Read : Mark 6 : 30-44
7. Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Israel The Church of the Transfiguration built on the peak of Mount Tabor, is believed to be the spot where Elijah and Moses appeared to Jesus while he was praying on the mountain. On either side of the entrance to the church are two chapels. One is dedicated to Elijah which contains a picture depicting his confrontation with the Baal prophets, and the other to Moses which contains a picture of him with the stone tablets.
Read : Matthew 17 : 1-8, Mark 9 : 2-8
8. Stella Maris Monastery, Haifa, Israel Located on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, the Stella Maris Church is built over Elijah’s cave where he temporarily took refuge after killing the prophets of Baal.
The name Stella Maris refers to an early title given to Mother Mary which means ‘Star of the Sea’.
9. Church of St. Anne, Jerusalem The Church of St. Anne symbolizes the house of Jesus’s maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, and also the birthplace and childhood home of Mary. This church is renowned for its exceptional acoustics and it almost feels like as if angels were singing. All pilgrims are welcome to sing songs and experience something out of the world.
Right next to the church are the remains of an ancient pool which is supposedly the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a paralysed man who had been invalid for 38 years.
Read : John 5: 2-9
10. Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem Known as the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection, consists of the last five Stations of the Cross which includes spots where Jesus was nailed to the cross, died and rose from the dead three days later.
The 10th Station is the place where Jesus was stripped of his garments. The 11th Station is the site where Jesus was nailed to the cross. The 12th Station is believed to be the spot where Jesus dies. At the 13th Station, Jesus was taken down from the cross, and lastly, the 14th Station is the place where Jesus was buried.
Read : Matthew 27 : 27-66, Matthew 28 : 1-10
11. Chapel of the Ascension, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem Located on the Mount of Olives, the Chapel of the Ascension marks the site from where Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after his resurrection.
On the floor of this tiny chapel, one can see the stone which is imprinted with Jesus’s footprints as he ascended into heaven.
Read : Luke 24 : 50-51
12. Church of the Pater Noster, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem Also located on the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Pater Noster (Latin for “Our Father”), stands on the place where Jesus Christ taught his disciples the most important Christian prayer – the Our Father.
An interesting aspect about this site is that along the walls, the Lord’s Prayer has been inscribed on ceramic tiles in over 70 languages! Try to spot your local language!
Read : Luke 11 : 1-4
13. Church of All Nations, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem The Mount of Olives is a prime location for several biblical events such as the Ascension of Jesus Christ as well as the site where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.
Another significant incident that took place near the foot of the Mount of Olives was when Jesus prayed on a rock before his arrest and crucification. According to tradition, the Church of All Nations, located next to the Garden of Gethsemane, is built over the same rock that Jesus prayed on.
Read : Matthew 26 : 36-50
14. Church of St. Peter, Gallicantu, Jerusalem Situated on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, the Church of St. Peter is believed to have been built over the spot where Peter denied Jesus thrice before the cock crowed and where Jesus was imprisoned after being arrested by the Romans.
The church comprises of four levels – the upper church, the middle church, the guardroom and the dungeon.
A notable feature of the upper church is the colourful, cross-shaped, glass mosaic window on its ceiling. In the middle church, icons represent Peter’s denial, his repentance and his reconciliation with Jesus. In the basement of this church there are several underground caves which often served as cellars, water cisterns and baths. Since Jesus was arrested here and it is assumed to be the palace of Caiaphas, people anticipate that Jesus may have been held captive in one of these caves.
Read : Luke 22 : 54-62
15. Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West Bank A prime Christian site in Bethlehem, the Church of Nativity is built over the spot where Jesus Christ was born. The main significance of this church is the Grotto of the Nativity, a cave beneath the church altar which is entered by a flight of stairs. A silver star on the floor of this cave is believed to be the exact spot where Christ was born.
Read : Matthew 1 : 18-25