historical sites at ein karem

Historical Background

The name Ein Karem, which means “Spring of the Vineyard,” has Jewish and Christian origins. Still surrounded by woods and vineyards, Ein Karem is a serene area. According to Jeremiah 6:1 and Nehemiah 3:14, Ein Karem is known as “BeitaKerem or Beth-Haccerem” in the Old Testament.

The Tribe of Judah had authority over the region. The birthplace of John the Baptist and the residence of Zechariah and Elizabeth are Ein Karem’s most well-known New Testament residents. For Christian travelers, it is regarded as one of the top Jerusalem tour locations.

Two Homes of Zechariah and Elizabeth

The Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Visitation Church are Ein Karem’s two most important landmarks. Zechariah and Elizabeth are thought to have had two homes in Ein Karem. Zechariah was a priest who was probably well off.

It is therefore quite likely that he possessed two homes in Ein Karem.
They often lived in the valley. However, during the hotter months, they could escape the heat and humidity in a cooler summer residence that was perched high on a hillside. According to Luke 1:24, Elizabeth spent five months in solitude in the summer home when she was pregnant. Mary also paid her a visit there.


Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The remains of two Byzantine chapels that mark the location where early Christians revered this site as the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth as well as the birthplace of John the Baptist have been found during excavations in the church, which has at its core the cave that Christian tradition identifies as the birthplace of John the Baptist.

The “Martyrs Chapel,” where the present-day church is built, and another chapel located beneath the southern side of the monastery are two of the Byzantine remains. In Matthew 2:16, Herod’s murder of the children is referred to as the Martyrs chapel. “Hail martyrs of God,” is written in Greek in a mosaic panel. It’s not clear to whom it refers.

Church of the Visitation

A two-tiered church constructed on the side of a hill south of Ein Karem commemorates the Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and features a mosaic representing the event on the facade. During the Byzantine era, several churches and monasteries were constructed. Over one of these, the Visitation Crusader’s Church was constructed.

Some of the destroyed Byzantine churches were afterwards reconstructed by the Crusaders. Remains of the Crusader church may be seen on the top floor of the visitation church, particularly in the south wing.

Antonio Barluzzi was responsible for the 1955 completion of the contemporary church. One of the most stunning Gospel locations in the Holy Land is the magnificently adorned Church of the Visitation.

Zechariah and Elizabeth’s summer home, when Mary visited her cousin, is said to have been located near this chapel. Ceramic plaques on the wall across from the church depict Mary’s hymn of praise as it appears in Luke 1:46–55.

Large inscriptions on the exterior of the church display translations of Mary’s joy in 58 different languages. A vaulted corridor in the lower chapel connects to an antiquated well. According to an old legend, as Mary welcomed Elizabeth, a spring happily sprung out of the nearby rock.

Places of Interest

Five churches and monasteries may be found in Ein Karem:

1. The St. John the Baptist Church

2.Visitation Church 

3. Notre Dame de Sion Convent: This nunnery, run by the Zion sisters, has been transformed into a lodging facility.

4. Greek Orthodox St. John Convent: This facility serves Ein Karem’s Greek Orthodox neighborhood. In 1975, the old church (1894) underwent restoration.

5. Russian Monastery of Al Moskovia (called the Gorny Monastery initially). This five-onion-domed building’s construction began in 1905 and wasn’t finished until 2005. Later, gold paint was applied to its domes.

The renowned Mary’s Well, where it is thought that Mary became miraculously pregnant with Jesus, is also a major attraction.

Mary’s Spring

A freshwater spring called Mary’s Spring or the Fountain of the Virgin is located in a valley to the south of the hamlet. According to legend, Mary drank from this spring to satisfy her thirst before ascending the hill to meet Elizabeth.

This spring is where the name Ein Karem comes from. The Arabic words “Ein” (spring) and “Kerem” are where its meaning is derived (vineyard or olive grove). Over the spring sits a tiny, deserted mosque, serving as another additional evidence that this was once an Arab community.

The Desert of St. John, where John the Baptist is said to have lived alone, is marked by a Franciscan convent and a Greek Melkite monastery southwest of Ein Karem, along Route 386.

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