Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Politics Behind the Construction of the Modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Politics Behind the Construction of the Modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

Article excerpt

The Church of the Annunciation is built on one of the most sacred places for the Catholic world. According to the New Testament, this is where the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the son of God (Luke 1:26-38). In 1969, an Italian architect, Giovanni Muzio, built the modern church on the site, and this monumental Christian symbol stimulates political struggles to the present day. This article analyzes the various tensions and decisions pertaining to the Church of the Annunciation, including attempts to thwart its construction and to limit its size, as well as the political interests that enabled the largest Franciscan church in the Middle East to be built.

Keywords: Barluzzi, Antonio; Church of the Annunciation; Franciscan Custody; Muzio, Giovanni

The History of the Church

The site of the Annunciation has belonged since the seventeenth century to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.1 The first Franciscans arrived in the Holy Land shortly after the establishment of the order in the thirteenth century, and in the fourteenth century Pope Clement VI bestowed the title "Guardians of the Holy Places" on the Franciscans serving in the province of the Holy Land. From that time until 1847, when the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem was re-established, the Custody was the sole representative of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

The first attempt of the Franciscan Custody to build a church dedicated to the event narrated in the Gospel- when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the son of God (Luke 1:26-38)- occurred in the eighteenth century with the construction of a modest church (see figure 1). Subsequent attempts were crowned in 1969 with the culmination of Franciscan monumental construction in the holy places in the Holy Land, the modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

The idea of erecting a monument worthy of the sacred event originated in 1924 as an initiative of Ferdinando Diotallevi, the custos, or the head of the Franciscan Custody (in office 1918-24), with the approval of Pope Pius XL2 Diotallevi meant to entrust the building of the church to Antonio Barluzzi,3 a young architect who had already proved his abilities and qualifications by building the Church of All Nations (Gethsemane) in Jerusalem and the Church of the Transfiguration on top of Mount Tabor (1919-24). Barluzzi was asked to submit his plans for the Church of the Annunciation, but for reasons that are still not completely clear and that involved political tensions inside and outside the Custody, the project was aborted.4

The idea of rebuilding the church emerged again fifteen years later when the new custos, Alberto Gori (in office 1937-49), reappointed Barluzzi to the project. By that time Barluzzi was a well-appreciated architect who had rebuilt most of the major churches of the Holy Land for the Catholic Church. Among other edifices, he built the Church of the Flagellation, the second station on the "via dolorosa" (1928-29); the Church of the Beatitudes in Galilee (1937-38); and the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem (1938-40). He was also entrusted with other important projects: the Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany (1952-54), the Church of the Shepherd's Fields in Beit Sahour (1952-54), the church of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives (1955), and the incredibly ambitious project of rebuilding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the new plan was prepared by Barluzzi and Luigi Marangoni and was not executed).5

Barluzzi's Plan for the Church of the Annunciation: The Church as a Symbol of Evangelical Memory

Barluzzi's goal was to build in Nazareth the most important church on Earth dedicated to the Annunciation and Incarnation.6 The church was to serve as a huge architectural symbol that embodies the memory of these Gospel events, transmitting it to the viewers through both the power and grandiosity of the church on the outside and through the interior atmosphere glorifying the unification of man and God that took place at the site. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.