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The Holy Caves of Nazareth

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Exploring the Holy Caves of Nazareth

Location - Nazareth

Map Coordinates - 32.705360, 35.299255


Located under the compound of a Greek Orthodox bishop’s house, this small network of caves is called either the Forty Martyrs Church or the Holy Caves of Nazareth. These caves were built over the centuries by both Jews and early Christians who were trying to escape Roman persecution.

Inside tourists have the opportunity to see what is probably the world's oldest Christian altar (shown above).

As the legend goes, sometime prior to the legalization of Christianity in 313 AD forty Christians (some say monks) were discovered inside the cave by Roman soldiers, and they are believed to have been martyred there. Human remains and utensils found inside the cave support this legend. Secret entrances to the cave have also been identified.

During the Byzantine years (326-614 AD), when Christianity was legal, a church was built close to this site that included forty columns to commemorate the martyrs who lived in this cave. However, this church was destroyed by an unknown hostile army, either the Persians (614 AD) or Muslims (perhaps 1263 AD) and only two of these columns survived. Today those two columns are shown at the entrance of the cave.

After the destruction of the church, the caves were sealed and hidden, and all knowledge of this underground lair was forgotten. Then in the early twenty-first century a dog belonging to the Orthodox bishop’s compound discovered the caves, and excavations soon began. While the Holy Caves only take up about 100 square meters, a network of tunnels can be seen leading from the caves, and excavations are ongoing.

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