Ancient Village Life in Ein Kerem

November 21st 2012

 Located in the Southwestern quarter of Jerusalem, the ancient village of Ein Kerem, which literally translates to “Spring of the Vineyard,” has been a Christian pilgrimage site for centuries. While strolling through the quaint village, stop and visit at sites such as the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Church of the Visitation, the Notre-Dame de Sion Monastery and Mary’s Spring. And don’t leave without checking out the breathtaking Chagall Windows at nearby Hadassah Hospital.

Any visitor to Israel will enjoy strolling through the picturesque stone streets of Ein Kerem. The arched stone houses and natural beauty are reason enough to visit this peaceful hamlet. But beyond its natural beauty, Ein Kerem is also home to an incredible array of Christian sites and artifacts.

The Church of St. John the Baptist is a must visit for pilgrims and history buffs alike. It is here that St. John the Baptist is said to have been born, marked by an ancient mosaic floor that is still visible. Built on the remnants of Byzantine and Crusader churches, as well as a Mikve (traditional Jewish ritual bath), the building itself is filled with history.

Across town sits the beautiful Church of the Visitation. Also built on the ancient remains of previous churches, this site is believed to have been a home of St. John’s family and the place where Mary visited them. Designed by renowned Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi and completed in 1955, the contemporary church contains some beautiful frescoes and mosaics that are worth checking out.

The Notre-Dame de Sion Monastery (also called the Monastery of Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion, or Sisters of Our Lady of Zion), is also worth a visit and has a noteworthy story. Founded by French brothers who converted to Christianity in the 1800s, the structure housed an orphanage for some time. Stroll through the beautiful gardens and don’t miss the breathtaking views of Jerusalem and the surrounding Judean Hills.

Mary’s Spring is another site of note in Ein Kerem. This fresh water spring is believed to have been the original meeting place between Mary and Elizabeth (St. John’s mother). The waters are considered holy by many, and you will find pilgrims filling bottles with it to take home.

Finally, art lovers will not want to miss the stunning Chagall Windows at Hadassah Hospital. Artist Marc Chagall presented these 12 stained glass windows to the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center in the 1960s after working on them for two years. They are a gorgeous example of the prolific artist’s work.