Saint Anne’s Church was built by the Crusaders, the Roman Catholic Christian Europeans who came to deliver Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslims. The church of St. Anne was built between 1131 and 1138 over the traditional site of the home of Jesus’ grandparents (Anne and Joachim, Mary’s parents). According to Roman Catholic tradition, Mary was born on this site. Tradition also says that Anne and her husband had no children until Anne turned to God in prayer. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was then conceived and came into existence without any stain of human sin. This is the known as the Immaculate Conception.
The reason this church is particularly noteworthy does not have anything to do with the legends of Anne or Mary, but that it is one of the few remaining Crusader buildings still retaining the original construction. One of the main reasons this church exists yet today and was not destroyed when Muslims recaptured Jerusalem in 1189, is because in 1192 Saladin converted it into a Muslim theological school. The church, or school, continued to be used until about 1500 before it was abandoned. By 1856 it was falling apart. The Ottomans gave the church to France as a token of appreciation for the help the Ottoman Turks received during the Crimean War, and the church was restored to its original condition. Because of this, what we see today is basically what the Crusaders built. This fact is even more amazing when one compares it to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is also a Crusader church but cluttered with 800 years worth of tradition, relics and paraphernalia.
The Crusaders designed the church’s acoustics to compliment the singing of Gregorian chants, so that even today the sound of a group singing the simplest hymn is enchanting. This church is right beside the Pool of Bethesda, just inside the Lions Gate in the Muslim Quarter. Today, St. Anne’s is a Greek Catholic Church.
This church dedicated to St. Anne preserves the original design and construction of a Crusader church built in 1138 AD. On the right corner of the church is the Bell tower.
The windows and arch on the front of the church. The arch reaching a point at the top makes it a typical Crusader style arch. Note that Saladin’s 1192 inscription is under the arch.
The Arabic inscription of Saladin from July 25, 1192 is just above the door. It commemorates the conversion of this church into a Muslim theological school just 54 years after the Crusaders finished building it.
The facade of the Crusader church dedicated to St. Anne. In front of the church is a potted plant setting on the opening of a cistern that gives access to water below.
Looking at the altar at the front, on the inside of the church.
A close up of the altar of St. Anne’s, the Crusader church.
The Crusader-style domed ceiling inside St. Anne's Church.
A window covering in the church that is almost 900 years old.