Vie et Pèlerinage de Daniel, Hégoumène Russe (1106-1107)
Holy Land Itinerary by Daniel, Russian Hegumen
The new and great Crusader church, built in 1106, was seen by the hegumen Daniel, making his pilgrim way in an uncertain period of the early twelfth century accompanied by eight other men and led by a Palestinian monk. Daniel, like many other pilgrims, fulfilled a desire to see and "touch the Holy Places" and the "signs of the Divine presence." For this reason, his travelogue is attentive to both geographical and chronological detail. Despite the fact that he considered the Eastern Churches as the true custodians of the Holy Places and orthodoxy, he did not begrudge the high patronage of the crusaders, and did not fail to praise them for reconstructing many churches and monasteries.
Daniel’s text is the most complete left by medieval pilgrims to Nazareth. With regard to the venerated Grotto, he describes it as very deep, located along the north aisle, below the church’s floor level, with two small entrances. Worshipping at the scene, according to Daniel’s testimony, recalled not only the Annunciation, but also the place where Mary raised Jesus and Joseph was buried.
« A large, tall church with three altars rises in the middle of the village. Step inside and you will see to the left, in front of a small altar, a cave small and deep that has two small doors to the east and west, through which one descends to the cave.
Entering through the western door on the right you have a small cell, with a narrow entrance, in which the Blessed Virgin lived with Christ. Jesus was brought up in this sacred little cell that contains the bed on which he rested. It is so low that it seems to be almost at ground level.
Entering this same cave from the western door, you have on the left the tomb of St. Joseph, Mary's fiancé, who was buried there by Christ’s most pure hands. From the wall near his grave flows a white water, like holy oil, which they gather to heal diseases.
In this same cave at the western door is the place where the Virgin Mary was sitting at the door spinning the purple, the scarlet thread that is, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared, the one sent by God. He appeared before her eyes, not far from the place where the Holy Virgin was sitting.
There are about six meters from the door to the place where Gabriel stood; there, on a column, was erected a small round altar of marble where liturgy is celebrated. The place occupied by this cave was St. Joseph’s House and it was in this house that everything happened. A church dedicated to the Annunciation was erected on top of this cave.»
Daniil Egumeno, Itinerario in Terra Santa. Introduzione, traduzione e note a cura di M. Garzaniti, Roma 1991 (Hegumen Daniil, Holy Land Itinerary. Introduction, translation and notes edited by M. Garzaniti, Rome, 1991)