Church of Saint Anne
The Roman Catholic Church of St Anne is the best-preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem. It commemorates the traditional site of the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne (Hannah) and Joachim, and the birthplace of the Virgin Mary (Even though the New Testament says nothing about the birthplace of Mary).
St Anne’s has a fortress-like appearance and is also unusually asymmetrical in the detail of its design. It is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture. Saint Anne’s acoustics, designed for Gregorian chant, are perfect.
The present basilica was built by the Crusaders just before 1140 AD. St Anne’s was not destroyed after the Muslim conquest in 1189. Instead, it was turned it into an Islamic theological school by Sultan Saladin. Eventually abandoned, the church fell into ruin until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856, after the Crimean War in return for their aid during the war.
France entrusted it to the White Fathers and St Anne’s Church is still administered by the White Fathers. It also contains a museum and used to have a Greek-Catholic (Melkite) seminary. St Anne’s is known for its openness to the Orthodox Christian world.
Pools of Bethesda (Beit Hisda)
Adjacent to St. Anne’s Church is the large excavated area of the Pools of Bethesda, believed to be the site where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5:1-15). During the period of the Second Temple the pools were considered medicinal pools. Many sick people sought healing here. Interestingly, archaeologists unearthed here a Roman temple dedicated to the god of medicine, Aesculapius.
Beit Hisda is one of the system of pools which supplied the Temple with water. This site is close by the second station of the Via Dolorosa.