Experience a spiritual journey of personal discovery and reaffirmation while tracing the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, within the Biblical landscape in which she lived, rejoiced and sorrowed
Stroll the streets and lanes of Nazareth, the town that was once a village where Jesus was raised. The Basilica of the Annunciation enshrines the grotto where, according to tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary (Luke1:26-35). The nearby Mary of Nazareth International Center preserves important, recently discovered remains of a family dwelling dating from the 1st-century period. A short distance away, the fountain at the Spring of the Virgin Mary (Mary's Well) most probably marks the place where Mary drew water for the Holy Family.
Elsewhere in the Galilee
According to one early-Church tradition, the ancient town of Sepphoris (Zippori), today a national archaeological park, was the birthplace of Mary – a tradition commemorated in the modern Franciscan Monastery of St. Anne and Joachim.
Mary was present at the wedding feast at Cana, scene of the first miracle of Jesus, where he turned the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee)
The ancient fishing village of Capernaum, where Jesus lived during much of his ministry in the Galilee, is also important in the Marian pilgrimage, for it is related that the Virgin Mary accompanied her son to Capernaum. (John 2:12). The Church of the House of St. Peter enshrines the remains of a one-room dwelling presumed to be the "House of Simon, called Peter" (Mark 1:29). The present church is built over the Insula Sacra to preserve the archeological finds.
Haifa and Mount Carmel
The Monastery of Stella Maris is dedicated to the Virgin Mary in her capacity as "Our Lady, Star of the Sea" (Stella Maris, in Latin). The nearby Elijah's Cave has since Byzantine times been identified as a place where the Holy Family rested on its way back from Egypt.
The Monastery of Stella Maris
Jerusalem – The Old City
In ancient times, as today, Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. Mary, especially as an adult, may have visited the city at least once a year to pray at the Temple. Today's pilgrim can visit the Western Wall [Heb., ha-Kotel ha-Ma'aravi], a remnant of the great retaining wall around the Temple Mount platform, which has been a place of Jewish prayer and devotion since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE. Visitors can also ascend to the Temple Mount itself (where non-Muslims can only see, but not enter, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.)
The 12th-century Church of St. Anne (Bethesda Pool) enshrines the site that was according to Byzantine tradition the birthplace of the Virgin Mary.
The Via Dolorosa begins near the arch of Ecce Homo in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. Of the fourteen stations, four are directly or indirectly connected to the Virgin Mary who was present and witnessed the ordeal.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher contains several shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary, including an image of Mary, Mother of Sorrows (Mater dolorosa).
Jerusalem – Outside the city walls of the Old City
The Cenacle (the “Upper Room”) – a 14th-century hall in a small, two-storey structure within a larger complex of buildings on the summit of Mount Zion – commemorates the place where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. It is also associated with an earlier, at least 4th-century tradition that this was the place (or at least the vicinity) where the disciples gathered with the Virgin Mary and others of the community after the death of Jesus (Acts 1:14) – and where they experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
Hagia Maria Sion Abbey on Mt. Zion (the Dormition Abbey) was consecrated in 1910. It was built on part of the site of the former Byzantine basilica of Hagia Sion and a later Crusader church, St. Mary of Mount Zion. A shrine in the crypt is dedicated to the Dormition.
The Tomb of the Virgin (Orthodox Church) is located at the foot of the Mount Olives in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, an arm of the Kidron Valley, adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations.
In Christian tradition, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist, and the place where his parents Zachariah and Elizabeth resided . The New Testament tells of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth while they both were pregnant (Luke 1:39-56). Several sites within the village are associated with that visit.
Mary's Spring, a spring and fountain at the center of the ancient village. According to one tradition, this was a place where Mary and Elizabeth met, and where Mary drank (consequently the spring became a place of Christian pilgrimage).
Church of the Visitation – traditional site of the home of Mary's cousin Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias (the parents of St. John the Baptist).
Church of St. John the Baptist marking the traditional birthplace of St. John the Baptist.
Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem
The Basilica of the Nativity, one of the earliest and most important of all Christian ecclesiastical buildings, enshrines the cave believed to be the place where Jesus was born (Luke 2:7).
The Milk Grotto located in the crypt of a small Franciscan chapel, celebrates the tradition that the cave was used as a place of refuge by the Holy Family before their flight into Egypt.
* Under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Visiting the site may require special arrangements, including coordination for transportation and guides.
The village of Abu Ghosh sits on the site of the biblical Qiryat Ye'arim, where the Ark of the Covenant rested for twenty years before it was returned to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 6: 21, 7:1-2). The hilltop Church of Notre Dame de l'Arche de l'Alliance (Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant, built in 1924) commemorates that event.
The Catholic shrine at Deir Rafat Monastery (west of Beit Shemesh and Kibbutz Tzora') was established in the 1930s by the then Latin Patriarch, Msgr. Louis Barlasina. The shrine is dedicated to the Virgin Mary in her role as Queen of Nations and protector of the Holy Land.
Sources for Additional Information
Israel Ministry of Tourism websites: