The Church of the Visitation honors the visit paid by Mary,
Jesus' mother, to Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother.
(Luke 1:39-56 ) This is the site where tradition tells us
that Mary recited her song of praise, the Magnificat. The
church is beautifully adorned with tiled representations of
that canticle in many of the worlds languages.
The present structure is the older of two churches located
at Ein Kerem, in present day Israel. Tradition attributes
its construction to Empress Helena of Constantinople,
Constantine I's mother, who identified the site as the home
of Zechariah and the place where he and Elizabeth hid from
Later, Christian Crusaders also recognized it as the site
where the meeting between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary took
place, and erected a two-story church on the site of the
ancient ruins. When the Crusaders left the Holy Land, the
church fell into Muslim hands and gradually deteriorated.
An ancient cistern from which, according to tradition,
Zechariah and Elizabeth drank, can also be found in the
church; the stone next to it is said to have hid the two
from Herod's soldiers. The upper hall is dedicated to Mary,
and its walls are decorated with paintings in honor of her.
Verses from the Magnificat are engraved on the columns of
the church, and on the wall opposite it are forty-two
ceramic tablets bearing verses from the Magnificat in forty-
two different languages. On the church's facade is a
striking mosaic commemorating the Visitation.
Design & Construction --
The Franciscans purchased the building in 1679, but only
began reconstruction of the lower level of the church in
1862. Design and construction of the upper level of the
structure began in 1938, and was completed by Italian
architect Antonio Barluzzi in 1955. The interior of the
church holds Italianate frescoes depicting the Visitation,
Elizabeth hiding her son John the Baptist, and Zechariah
next to the altar in the temple. Also preserved are remains
of the ancient church and beautiful mosaic floors. The
church is currently held in trust by the Franciscan Custody
of the Holy Land.