Christians from all over the world are drawn to the exquisitely peaceful village of Ein Kerem, the place where they believe Saint John the Baptist was born. Sheltered behind iron gates, the Church of Saint John the Baptist contains the grotto in which the birth is believed to have taken place. Encompassed with trees and with a breathtaking view of the Judean Hills beyond, the church stands as a monument to an ancient and enduring faith.
The present day Church of Saint John the Baptist is built on the foundations of a much older structure which was sporadically destroyed and rebuilt again over the years. Byzantines erected the original church, which was demolished by angry Samaritans rebelling against the oppression of Byzantine laws. The Crusaders were the next to rebuild the church, but upon their eviction in later centuries the building fell into disrepair. It was the Franciscan Order of monks that purchased the property centuries later in 1674, and proceeded to restore the church with the aid of the Spanish royal family.
For this reason, much of the art that decorates the magnificent interior of the church is Spanish in style, from the blue and white tiling to the sumptuous paintings produced by Spanish artists. Queen Isabella herself contributed the marble altar that now resides in the grotto that is believed to have been the birthplace of John the Baptist.
Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 12:00, 14:30 to 17:00; Sunday, 9:00 to 12:00; 14:30 to 17:00
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