Christ’s childhood home found?

The “historical Jesus” is only of passing interest in comparison to the Lord of Salvation.

The Daily Mail has a piece about how archaeologists, reading medieval manuscripts, have identified a likely place …

Hewn into a hillside, this is the humble stone and mortar house where a scholar believes Jesus was raised.

It has been dated to the early 1st century by a British archaeologist who says an ancient text points to the building as being the home in Nazareth where Mary and Joseph brought up the son of God.

Professor Ken Dark says De Locis Sanctis, written in 670 by Irish monk Adomnan, described the house as located between two tombs and below a church.

The text was based on a pilgrimage to Nazareth made by the Frankish bishop Arculf and tells of a church ‘where once there was the house in which the Lord was nourished in his infancy’.

In the Byzantine era, and again in the 12th century at the time of the Crusades, the ruins of the building were incorporated into churches – suggesting it was of great significance and needed to be protected, the Reading University archaeologist argues.

The house was cut into a limestone hillside and has a series of rooms and a stairway. One of the original doorways has survived, as has part of the original chalk floor.

Writing in the journal Biblical Archaeological Review, Dr Dark says that while he has no proof, there is ‘no good reason’ to believe it was not Jesus’s home.

He has been researching the ruins, in what is now northern Israel, since 2006.

The house was first identified as significant in the 1880s after the chance discovery of by nuns an ancient cistern. An excavation was ordered.

Jesuit priest Henri Senes carried out more work in 1936.

Since 2006, Dr Dark’s team has discovered broken cooking pots, a spindle whorl and limestone artefacts.

The limestone items suggest a Jewish family lived there as Jews believed that limestone could not be impure – and Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth when the angel Gabriel revealed that Mary would give birth to the son of God, a baby to be named Jesus.

Dr Dark, a specialist in first century and Christian archaeology, argues that the house he believes was Jesus’s boyhood home matches Adomnan’s account.

It is located beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, which is across the road from Church of Annunciation in Nazareth.

The Adomnan text describes two churches in Nazareth, one of which was the Church of Annunciation.

Dr Dark writes: ‘The other stood nearby and was built near a vault that also contained a spring and the remains of two tombs.’

The Sisters of Nazareth Convent matches this because there is evidence of a large Byzantine church with a spring and two tombs in its crypt, he says.

Dr Dark writes: ‘Great efforts had been made to encompass the remains of this building. Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated.

‘Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds.

‘On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted.’

In 2009 archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority found another 1st century home nearby they believed had been occupied by a Jewish family. However they were able to say only that Jesus may have lived near the site.

Go look at that page.  There are lots of photos.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Gerard Plourde says:

    I agree that the “quest for the historical Jesus” as undertaken by Protestant theologians in the late 19th century is of little merit. The fact of the Incarnation, however, is basic to our faith. Without acknowledging and contemplating the truth that Our Lord voluntarily and fully took on our humanity we risk falling into Gnosticism.

  2. Gaetano says:

    I am always amazed that Nazareth has one well, and that there is every reason to believe that the Holy Family drew their water from that source:

  3. mburn16 says:

    The “historical Jesus” is of passing relevance to “Christ the savior” from the direct viewpoint of obtaining salvation. That said, the more proof we have of the accuracy of scripture, the more powerful our case in obtaining converts and public obedience. Ponder what massive change in our society is would cause if we could *prove* the veracity of the Christian message.

  4. GypsyMom says:

    If this is the house where Jesus was raised, what of the Holy House of Loreto?

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    When I saw this story yesterday I was confused and had to hunt around to see whether this was a claim that the Holy House now in Loretto is not the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth… what I sorted out was that:

    1. The Holy House was the one over which the Basilica of the Annunciation was built, and was the childhood home of Mary where the Annunciation happened. It was regarded as such from very early on and at the end of the Crusades when there was an imminent sense that the jihadis were about to win the apparently uncommonly sturdy little house was taken off its foundations first to Dalmatia, Croatia (where inquiries were made to Nazareth and it was confirmed the Holy House was no longer there, but its foundations exactly matched the house deposited in Dalmatia) and then to Italy, by a family named Angelos whom no one could resist painting as 4 angels flying through the air with the house. The current Basilica of the Annunciation was built in the 60s and is the largest Catholic Church or maybe the largest Franciscan church in the middle east. There is just a grotto that is remembered as the place where the childhood home of Mary had been (ie built up against the grotto in the hillside) and where the Annunciation occurred.

    2. There was also a house of St Joseph where Jesus grew up, and over which there was built a no longer extant church, the Church of the Nutrition, ie where Jesus was nourished in infancy. Contemporary accounts describe clearly the two churches and the houses inside them. The house where Jesus grew up was built against a hill incorporating a little cave/grotto with the house built up against it which had two rooms plus grotto in the back. It was supposed that Joseph let Our Lord and His Mother have the front rooms as bedrooms, and humbly retired to the grotto room himself. Subsequent to Jesus’ childhood two tombs were built immediately beside the house, one of them partly into the house, and this was venerated by Christians as the tomb of St Joseph. Which suggests to me possibly how he came to be regarded as the patron of a happy death even though what happened to him isn’t mentioned directly in the Bible. Anyway, it does seem like a really good bet that what has been found is the house that was under the Church of the Nutrition, that was reverenced since St Helena’s time as the childhood home of Jesus.

    Very interesting story. I do think the relevance of it is the incarnation and devotion to the humanity of Christ.

  6. Dave N. says:

    This is an absolutely fantastic excavation—definitely a “not to be missed” site on any pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But even more interesting than the house, in my opinion, are the tombs. One really can get a sense of what a first century Jewish tomb was like.

  7. JesusFreak84 says:

    I would hope it’s real only because it’d be a great pilgrimage site, maybe a shrine dedicated to the Holy Family and Church teaching ON the family? There’s potential…but I do still think that, especially from Thanksgiving until Easter, there’s an unhealthy obsession with the “historical Jesus.”

  8. gramma10 says:

    Oh thank you Fr. Z!
    I was blessed to be at the Church of the Annunciation 2 years ago. Wow! Now there will be more sites to visit where Jesus walked for future pilgrims to see.
    This is so exciting. My pilgrimage to the Holy Land was one of the best moments of my life.
    Just to be where Jesus and Mary and the Apostles lived and to see and touch almost all the amazing things He possibly/probably did.
    This is very very cool. Love the archeology of it all. I do so want to go back! All Christians need to go on pilgrimage there as a holy goal at least once in their lifetime. (like the annual pilgrimage to Mecca by the Muslims, Hajj) but goodness. . .that is about Muhammad and Jerusalem (Israel) is about Jesus–The Lord Our G0d!
    Too awesome to comprehend.

  9. Joseph-Mary says:

    I stayed at this convent on my pilgrimage to the Holy Land 4 years ago. The sisters take you down several levels to see the ancient tombs, etc. It was a lovely place to stay at the very least and just down the alley from the Basilica. But Nazareth seemed to be primarily a muslim town. I remember a big billboard that said something like “If you do not believe (or follow?) the Prophet, you will be the loser”. That was just down the street from the Basilica!

  10. Akita says:

    I’ve been pondering the hidden life of Jesus from time to time lately and imagine he and St. Joseph must have created many fine wooden artefacts and I wonder if any still exist in the world today, or would they be degraded after 20 centuries? Did Jesus ever carve curlycues or a Greek key motif into anything? Just fanciful musings I’ve had.

  11. Muv says:

    Totally fascinating, and many thanks to Elizabeth D for her observations.

    The article in the Daily Mail contains the following sentence:-

    “Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth when the angel Gabriel revealed that Mary would give birth to the son of God, a baby to be named Jesus.”

    They are presenting it as fact, with none of the usual journalistic trimming to appease non-Christians. A minor miracle in itself.

  12. Kerry says:

    Christ’s birthplace today, Obama’s birthplace tomorrow!

  13. CharlesG says:

    “The “historical Jesus” is only of passing interest in comparison to the Lord of Salvation.”

    I’m not sure what you mean. It seems to me they are one and the same. It is when scholars and exegetes try to separate the two that things go off the rails. I am rather partial to St. Helena’s going to Jerusalem to try and find the true Cross. If Christ’s life, death and ressurection is just a pious story, then, to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, to heck with it.

  14. Bea says:

    I often find very meaningful connections that point to the Life of Christ.

    “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”
    Some time ago I read that Golgotha became that hill (rise?) because the stones there, were rejected when building the temple because there were cracks in them. The rejected stones became the cornerstone of Our Faith when Christ died there on the cross.

    This leaves me wondering of This House of His Infancy can be another meaningful connection, as there are 2 tombs on either side and THERE, between them, grew the Tree of Life (Our Lord on the cross between 2 thieves who died, while He gave His Life for us).

    I’m just meditating and wondering?


  16. Charlotte Allen says:

    Hmm, Dark has been excavating the remains of a Byzantine church in Nazareth under which are the remains of a first-century house. A seventh-century text mentions a church built over the remains of Jesus’ house, and the description of the site in that text seems to match the ruins Dark has been excavating.

    But there is no evidence at all that either the house mentioned in the text or the house that Dark has excavated actually was Jesus’ house. The article doesn’t say when the church was built, but it couldn’t have been earlier than the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. That was three entire centuries after Jesus’ birth. We have no idea when the tradition arose that that that particular house was Jesus’. During the fourth century pilgrims began traveling to the Holy Land in substantial numbers for the first time, and they eagerly looked for places where they could revere the presence of Jesus. Did they actually find what they were looking for in this case, or did they simply start a pious tradition connected to an old house?

    I think the most we can say is that this house could possibly have been–or at least could possibly have resembled–the house where Jesus grew up. And it’s certainly safe to say that if he didn’t grow up in this particular house, he didn’t grow up very far away from it.

Comments are closed.