The synagogue

Hidden among the winding roads of the Arab souk, the synagogue today is one of the places most visited by the pilgrims. This is a single hall dating back to the crusade era, with exposed stone and slightly pointed barrel vaults. It was converted into a church in the 18th century, when a group of Greek Christians wished to join the Catholics. During the Turkish era the name “Madrassat el Messiah”, the school of the Messiah, perpetuated the apocryphal belief that this was the place in which Jesus studied as a child.

In the 6th century, the pilgrim of Piacenza saw, in a building that he called synagogue, the roll with the alphabet written by Jesus and the bench where he sat with the other children. Witnesses from the crusade era state that the synagogue where Jesus read the book of Isaiah was converted into a church. The various sources do not however provide further information on the location of this building. In the 14th century, brother Jacob of Verona saw the synagogue close to the church of Annunciation, at two stones' throw to the south, where Greek monks were living.

The building fell into Franciscan hands in 1741, when the guardian of Nazareth, Bruno de Solerio, purchased it and had it restored. In 1771 it then passed to the Catholic Greeks who, as mentioned, converted it into a church. Following this - in 1882 - they built a new church next to the synagogue, which still today is used as a parish for the Melkite community of Nazareth.

The old medieval building, as now confirmed in all literature, cannot be considered the synagogue where Jesus, according to the testimony of Luke (Lc 4,16-30), read the roll of Isaiah in front of his fellow citizens, but the tradition is now solid, and pilgrims are to be seen regularly meditating over this quoted gospel section.