In one of our Pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land last year, we were able to visit the birthplace of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem.
There are two churches by this name in Ein Kerem. The most popular and most visited is a Catholic church built in the second half of the 19th century on the remnants of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches. Inside are the remains of an ancient mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born. The other church, built in 1894, is Eastern Orthodox.
It is identifiable by its tall tower topped by a round spire. It is also called “St John in the mountains”, a reference to the “hill country” of the Scripture.
John Baharim or the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem which is found in a small pastoral village on the western side of Jerusalem.
The Church belongs to the Catholic Franciscan order with the aid of the Spanish royal family (their coat-of-arms is located above the entrance inside the sanctuary).
|Traditional place believed to be the birthplace of St. John the Baptist|
The most striking part of the pleasantly adorned interior is the Crypt, which houses the so-called Grotto of the Benedictus (Zacharia’s song in Luke 1:68-79), considered being the place where John the Baptist (pbuh) was born. A marble star beneath the altar bears a Latin inscription: “HIC PRECURSOR DOMINI NATUS EST” (Here was born the precursor of the Lord).
|The birthplace of St. John the baptist is found below the painting depicting baptism of Jesus|
The cave used to be a part of John’s home and belonged to his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.
“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John…
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth…
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” LUKE 1:13-17