The Ottoman Age
During the long Turkish Ottoman Empire (1517-1917), the Greek church benefitted from major support and advantages from the Sultans with respect to the Latin one, due to its geographical location in the same empire. In Nazareth, for example, the church of Saint Gabriel was occupied by the Greek clergy, as shown by the Custos Boniface from Ragusa during his pilgrimage to the holy places.
In 1620, by order of the Druse Emir Sidone Fakr-el Din II, the Custos Tommasso Obicini from Novara took possession of the Grotto of the Annunciation, the ruins of the basilica of Nazareth and those of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. So, the Franciscans revived the Latin religion there. The arrival of the Franciscans was followed by that of the Maronites and Melkites of the Eastern catholic church who still today form the majority of the city’s Christian community.
The Ottomon oppression against the Christians also affected the residents of Nazareth: in 1624 the village was looted by the order of the Emir Tarabei and the Franciscans fled together with the inhabitants to escape capture. On the death of the Emir Fakr-el Din (1635), supporter of the Franciscans, persecutions against the friars intensified. In1638 the inhabitants of the Christian village of Nazareth where attacked by the Muslims of Tzippori and, despite the attempt for defence made possible thanks to the powerful ruins of the Crusader church, the village was conquered, the dwellings burned and the inhabitants forced to flee. By the end of this century, the Franciscans were looking several times to make their rights heard against the continuous devastations ordered by the chief of Safed who set fire to the church and altars and repeatedly raided the convent in search of money.
Finally in 1730 it was possible to rebuild a small square church above the Grotto of the Annunciation, alongside the new Franciscan convent. It was blessed by the Father Custos Andrea of Montoro on 15th October of the same year. Since there was no governing authority, for a good part of the century the Franciscan community also performed civil and legal administration tasks both in Nazareth and the other surrounding villages on behalf of the Pasha of Sidon and of the governor of Acco. By the end of 1789, Nazareth returned to have an own Governor who resided in a palace and was honoured like a prince.
During the 1800s, the Ottoman empire began to experience the effects of Arab nationalist pressure that led to the more liberal and reformist policy of the sultan Abdülmecid I (1839-1861). Nazareth also benefitted from being more open and economically stable, allowing it to develop rapidly. The community was formed above all of Christians belonging to different rites (4,000 Christian followers and 2,000 Muslims).
With the increase of the number of faithful, the small Franciscan church was no longer big enough. Consequently, in 1877 the decision to lengthen its aisle was made. This church was used until the construction of the current one.
The story of Nazareth
The Byzantine Era
The Crusader Period
The last century