Every year, September 8 is known as the Catholic tradition for the birthday of Virgin Mary. Althogh the canonical Gospels in the New testament are silent about its origins, we believe taht her parents Joachim & Anne, gave her birth and childhood from the second century Protoevangelium of James. Early Christian tradition places the home of Joachim and Anne next to a double pool that was a popular healing center - the pool of Bethesda, known to us from the Gospel of John:
“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed.” (Jn 5:2-3)
It is exactly where Jesus healed a paralytic according to the New Testament. The double significance of the site - both birthplace of Mary and the miracle turned this site into an important Christian sanctuary and many Pilgrims are visiting this site for more than 15 hundreds years.
The Byzantines built originally a vary large basilica called St. Mary of the Probatic just over the pools. It was damaged by the Persian invasions during 614 AD and was rebuilt but again destroyed by the Muslims in 1,010 AD. It was the Crusaders who built here a monastery over the ancient ruins, and during 1031 they also built the beautiful present basilica which is a large Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Anne exactly above the old cave where the memory of the Mary’s birthplace was kept.
At the end of the Crusader era, the St. Anne’s Church was turned into a Madrasa, an Islamic law school, and it was neglected under the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Only in 1856, the Turkish offered the old basilica to France, and finally it was entrusted to the Missionaries of Africa or White Fathers, who are welcoming pilgrims until today.
The nice Church of St. Anne is located next to the Lion's Gate at the beginning of the the Road of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa in the Old City.
The complex itself is an oasis of peace next to the noisy and crowded Arab markets. The Basilica is also known for its extraordinary acoustics during Mass, and pilgrims are invited to sing their hymns of praise to God before they walk over the Via Dolorosa.
The huge compound of the two pools and ruins of both the Byzantine and Crusader churches in this sitem, is still well done preserved and must be visited. All visitors can also enter the deep cistern where water remains, as a interesting memory and perhaps an important and unique invitation to all those who still believe and seek for healing just like some 2,000 years ago.