So the Church of the Visitation is a Catholic church in Ein Karem and honors the visit paid by the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. (Luke 1:39–56) This is the site where tradition tells us that Mary recited her song of praise, the Magnificat, one of the most ancient Marian hymns.
The modern church was built in 1955 by the architect Antonio Barluzzi on the foundations of a Crusader church. The Crusader church was built on the foundations of a Byzantine church. In addition, the crypt is the remains of the Byzantine church, so the compound is divided into two levels. First, a lower one, indicating the house of Zechariah where the meeting took place, and an upper level dedicated to the glory of Mary. On the courtyard, walls hang seventy ceramic plates with the prayer of the Magnificat in different languages. This prayer was said by Mary when coming to visit Elizabeth.
Church of the Visitation: The Crypt
The crypt is a small cave with a spring on the church’s lower level. The architect wanted to preserve the look of the summer house of Elizabeth and Zechariah, so the floor is covered with a carpet-like mosaic; the ceiling is decorated with a fresco of a vine arbor.
The crypt was used for prayer in the Byzantine period and showed the remains of the rock behind which, according to tradition, Elizabeth hid with John during Herod’s massacre. Furthermore, this tradition is reflected in the painting of the southern wall, above the niche within which are the remains of the rock. Since pilgrims took over the generations parts of the stone as souvenirs, only a tiny part remains, and an iron grille protects it.
So the walls of the crypt are decorated with paintings from the lives of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Furthermore, the painting on the eastern wall shows the visit in the form of the two women hugging each other in the presence of their companions and the background of the mountains surrounding the settlement.
Moreover, the small spring that bursts from the rock is reminiscent of the spring from which the well in the cave receives water. According to tradition, the small spring began to erupt at the moment of the encounter. The painting on the north wall shows Zechariah in the Temple in Jerusalem when the angel announces his son’s birth. Last, the third painting shows, as mentioned, the massacre of the innocent in the days of Herod.
The Main Church
The main church, located on the upper level, has one apse, in which Mary is depicted as a Franciscan monk who presents her with the Church as a gift. Around Mary, stand and look at her St. Francis of Assisi. Moreover, on the walls of the church, many murals depict various events in the history of Christianity:
The church conference at Ephesus; Maria as Queen of the World (in this mural also appears Barluzzi himself, wearing a tie); The miracle of the wine that Jesus performed at the Wedding in Cana; The public debate in which Don Scotus attended the University of Sorbonne regarding Miriam’s pregnancy (The Immaculate Conception); And the victory of the Christian navy over the Ottoman navy in Lepanto, Greece in 1571, after Miriam sought their victory.