Walk Through the Church at Nain
Location - Nain
Map Coordinates - 32.630702, 35.350041
Merged Gospels story - 81
Pronounced Nie-yeen’, this small Arab village on the way to Lake Galilee is the site of a miracle described in the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus resurrected the only son of a local widow. Nain is nestled on a plateau on the lower northwestern slopes of Mount Moreh, southeast of Nazareth, looking out over the Jezreel Valley.
The Biblical Story.
From Luke 7:11-17 we read
And it came to pass on the next day that He went to a city called Nain, and many of His disciples went with Him, and there was a great crowd. And as He came near to the gate of the city, behold, a mother’s only son had died, and was carried out, and she was a widow. And a considerable crowd of the city was with her. And seeing her, the Lord was moved with compassion toward her, and said to her, “Do not cry.” And He came near and touched the coffin, and those holding it stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, “Arise.” And the dead one sat up and began speaking, and He gave him to his mother. And fear gripped everyone, and they were glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us,” and, “God looks upon His people.” And the story of this went out in all Judea about Him, and throughout all the surrounding region.
The Gate of the City.
The miracle mentioned in Luke describes the event as having occurred at the gate of the city. But where was the gate? It must have been on the north side of the city as we approach the modern village, since mountains surround the city to the south, and traffic would have accessed it from the north.
In 2006 we caught on film what appeared to be the single remaining ancient structure on the north side of the village, and we assumed that this may have been the only part of the ancient gate that remained to this day. However, in subsequent visits to the village, this structure was nowhere to be found.
Because Nain had a gate it must have had a wall. This 25-foot wall section is all that remained of the original city wall, and it must have been near the gate. This final section was torn down sometime around 2012.
The church of Nain in the 19th century, with Mount Tabor in the background.
Where was the cemetery?
The first recorded account of a pilgrim’s visit to Nain is anonymous, probably by Egeria, who visited the Holy Land as a pilgrim sometime around AD 381. This text reads, “In the village of Nain is the house of the widow whose son was brought back to life, which is now a church, and the burial place where they were going to lay him is still there to this day.”
Outside the village, to the west, about one-third mile from the houses are the tombs of a Roman cemetery, cut into the rock on the flank of the mountain. The funeral procession that Jesus intercepted would have been making its way in this direction.
History of the Church.
We know that a Byzantine Church existed here as early as the fourth century. However, after the Islamic conquest of the Holy Land in 638 AD medieval pilgrims mentioned that this church was later incorporated into a mosque.
In 2006 we entered the church with this large skeleton key.
In 1181 the Crusaders built a chapel in the center of the town. However, after the fall of the Crusader kingdom in the 12th century, Nain became a Muslim village, as it is today. While the Crusader church remained intact, it was used, once again, as a mosque until the 16th century.
This Crusader church is now buried under a more modern, yet abandoned Franciscan chapel, built in 1881. Today this simple and rectangular present-day church has a modern courtyard that was built shortly after 2012, and the church is now perpetually locked.
The main worship room is mostly barren, and there are two 19th-century paintings depicting the miracle of Nain (pictured here).
Inside the church of Nain.