Friday, September 16, 2016

The Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem

Front of the Church of St. Anne.
Photo Credit: Berthold Werner, Wikipedia, public domain

Several months ago someone shared a video on Facebook of RoseAngela singing “How Great Thou Art” in the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem. Her voice, the acoustics, everything was absolutely mesmerizing. The caption read, “Singing in St. Anne's right by the remains of the Pools of Bethesda which is where Jesus healed the crippled man (!!!!) The acoustics in this church are coveted by churches everywhere but no one has been able to replicate it.”

I made a note of the post, knowing I wanted to do some research on St. Anne’s and watch more videos. So, today is the day, and I've spent several hours listening to the voices from St. Anne's. They are just as mesmerizing as I thought they would be.

First, here's a little virtual tour of St. Anne's as you walk in and how the church looks from the back and the interior. And, as a bonus, you get to hear the choir sing.

If you'd like to see more videos, just go to youtube and search for The Church of St. Anne, and you'll find several. It looks like people can just sing if they want to. Well, *I* wouldn't (ahem), but those with a voice like RoseAngela definitely should! :)

Built between 1131-1138 and located at the start of the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Suffering, and long held to be the path that Jesus walked to his cruxifiction) and near the Lions’ Gate, the Church of St. Anne is a Roman Catholic church in the old city of Jerusalem.

From a description on Wikipedia, “The three-aisled basilica incorporates cross-vaulted ceilings and pillars, clear clean lines and a somewhat unadorned interior. The nave is separated from the lower lateral aisles by arcades of arches. The high altar, designed by the French sculptor Philippe Kaeppelin incorporates many different scenes. On the front of the altar are depicted the Nativity (left), the Descent from the Cross (center) and the Annunciation (right); on the left-hand end is the teaching of Mary by her mother, on the right-hand end her presentation in the Temple. In the south aisle is a flight of steps leading down to the crypt, in a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be Mary's birthplace. An altar dedicated to Mary is located there. The Byzantine basilica was partly stretched over two water basins, collectively known as the Pools of Bethesda, and built upon a series of piers, one of which still stands today in its entirety.”

It is also believed that the church was erected over the location where Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary lived, so Mary, the mother of Jesus was likely born in this spot. Also, the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the cripple man (John 5:1-9) is not far from the spot.

The above descriptions alone are enough to make this church revered and holy ground, but the acoustics take even the normal hush and reverence that is found in churches and sanctuaries and amplifies it (pun intended) a hundredfold. It’s said that the sounds move across the open space and up from the grotto, and that there is a 5-8 second reverberation. Listening to the videos, I believe it.

There were SO many wonderful videos, but here is a short one that I enjoyed, mostly because it was obvious that Kindra didn't have to be listed on some program or have permission to sing. Her friends/family kept encouraging her to. I was floored. Her voice was so beautiful, and I would have loved to hear more. Much, much more!

The videos of people singing in St. Anne’s are awe-inspiring. The church is a destination point (almost a pilgrimage) for soloists and choirs the world over. Even just watching and listening to some of these audio/videos brings tears to my eyes and a reverence to my heart. I can feel and hear the reverence in their voices as they start to sing and realize the power and just awesome glory in that place.

And then I think of the hundreds and thousands of people who raised their voices in songs of praise in that church in the last 878 years. A huge majority of those were before recording devices, wifi, and worldwide social media. They sang their songs, those who were near enough to hear, enjoyed, praised, and worshiped, and then, like a vapor, their voices and the echoes was gone.

But, now, here I am, thousands of miles away, and modern-day technology lets me listen to recordings of people singing in St. Anne’s in Jerusalem.

Wow. Isn’t that amazing?

Back to RoseAngela, the amazing voice that led me on this journey via the worldwide web. I visited her Facebook page again last week and discovered that she and her husband just welcomed a new baby into their family this past July, and that she’s from Georgia. The video of her singing in the Church of St. Anne was recorded in 2012, but somehow resurfaced in 2016 and has over 54,000 likes, 170,000 shares, and 10,000 comments to date. She mentioned somewhere on her page that she didn’t know why the video suddenly took off again, but somebody somewhere needed to be blessed by it now rather than four years ago.

And now, I leave you with RoseAngela singing "How Great Thou Art" in The Church of St. Anne, Jerusalem.

Enjoy and be blessed!