On the site of the Annunciation: Mary’s Fountain

Veronica Brocca25 March 2022

Today the Church celebrated the Annunciation of the Lord to a young woman from the small village of Nazareth. It is here where the divine Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin betrothed to Joseph.

The place of the Annunciation through the Archangel Gabriel is Nazareth for sure, and the Greek-Orthodox tradition considers the exact position in which the Archangel appeared to Mary for the first time is a well named “Mary’s Fountain”.

The Greek-Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel

«Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.» (John 1, 46)

The question expressed in the Gospel of John finds its clear answer in the place where now stands the Church of the Annunciation.

The small city of Nazareth is also home to other sacred places that were worshipped in the centuries by Christian pilgrims. Maybe not everyone knows Mary’s Fountain, ‘Ain Sitti Maryam in Arabic, that can be found on the way that leads to Tiberias.

The Fountain is so called, because is powered by a well that Mary had to use for sure, since the small village had no other water sources but this one.

Therefore, this is the spring that the young Mary, together with the other women of the village, went to draw water equipped with a jar.

Today, close to this wellspring, the Greek-Orthodox Church of Saint Gabriel can be found. According to the Orthodox tradition, this is the place where the young Mary received a first visit from the Archangel Gabriel. From here derives the name of the Church.

The fact originates from a passage from the Protoevangelium of James:

« And she took the pitcher, and went out to fill it with water. And, behold, a voice saying: Hail, you who hast received grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! And she looked round, on the right hand and on the left, to see whence this voice came. And she went away, trembling, to her house, and put down the pitcher; then, taking the purple, she sat down on her seat, and drew it out. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood before her, saying: Fear not, Mary; for you have found grace before the Lord of all, and you shall conceive, according to His word». (XI 1-2)

A place venerated in the centuries

So, in the small city of Nazareth, it is preserved in the memory the antique well, that today is enclosed in an underground Chapel made of coloured marble in the Orthodox Church.

Despite not being explicitly quoted in canonical Gospels, this place has always been venerated.

Tradition states that Mary, after receiving the first annunciation from the Archangel Gabriell, she was so shocked that she hurried home. Here, the Archangel appeared again and erassured her by saying not to worry, because «you have found favor with God» Luke 1,30. These words were pronounced where now stands the Church of the Annunciation, close to Mary’s fountain.

The Church of Saint Gabriel was built around 1750 on the ruins of a rounded crusade Church, destroyed by Muslims. Upon reaching the building, the pilgrim is struck by the semplicity of the light-coloured stone that surrounds the Church in contrast to the rich iconostasis made of golden and carved wood that dominates the interior.

The most recurring depictions in the icons are the Virgin Mary, the Archangel Gabriel, and Christ the King; there are also the Emperor Constantine, his mother Helen and other Orthodox hagiographies.

This Church was an important pilgrimage site for Byzantines and Crusaders and is probably one of the two churches seen by the monk Arculfo, who made a pilgrimage in Palestine in 670.

The Association pro Terra Sancta in Nazareth

In Palestine and Israel, the Association pro Terra Sancta preserves the important cultural heritage and supports the population with projects of education, formation, and medical and sociale assistance.

In particular, in the place where the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, it helps the Sanctuary of the Church of the Annunciation by supporting the costs of management and other adjustment works.