The type of building and its date
Studying the various architectural elements belonging to the pre-Byzantine building, P. Bagatti was convinced that it was a "synagogue shaped" construction with "a Christian architectural style previously unknown", that from a stylistic point of view could be ascribed to the 2nd-4th centuries AD and therefore built by the local Jewish-Christian community.
Ten years later, the Franciscan P. Corbo, with the help of P. Alliata, interpreted Bagatti’s studies in a new light. The two archaeologists positioned all the architectural pieces in their place as far as possible, and found an explanation for the unusual position of certain graffiti, such as that of the "Chaire Maria" engraved on the bases of a column.
They believed that there was probably a completely original building, composed of two halls side by side, of which the first stood around a meter away from the second, that contained the grottos. From the upper hall you could see the lower one: the two rooms were separated by columns interrupted by latticework acting as parapet.
You could reach the lower hall via a few stairs built into the rock. All the mosaic floors were directed towards the venerated grottos, i.e. towards the core of the entire building.
Therefore, a structure on two levels would have made it possible for a pilgrim standing in the lower hall to inscribe the "Chaire Maria" on the base of a column belonging to the upper room.
In order to date the building, P. Corbo fully relies on the testimony of Epiphanius who attributes the construction of this "church-synagogue" of "Jewish-Christian" type between 335 and 350 AD to Count Joseph.
In his studies on Jewish-Christian origins, Taylor provides a critical reading of the excavations of Nazareth and the interpretations of P.Bagatti, reaching other conclusions: the first building would have been a "small and non-conventional church" that included the grottos and that was called the "House of Mary". In the case of Nazareth, according to the expert, the standardized elements of the synagogue architecture were missing. Basing his theory particularly on the graffiti in Armenian language, a language that he claims would have been little used before the 6th century AD, the destruction of this church could be located at the end of the 5th –start of the 6th century. Taylor also considers it probable that the building was constructed by will of Count Joseph for the pilgrimages to the House of Mary, and not by the Jewish-Christian community of Nazareth.