Jerusalem, Israel Occupied Palestine
Coordinates: 31.780924, 35.236119
The Church of Saint Anne is a French Roman Catholic church located at before start of the Via Dolorosa, between the Lions Gate and of the Second Station of the Cross in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
This site is believed, according to christian traditions, to be the birthplace as well as childhood home of Bibi Maryam رضي الله عنها
Birth of Bibi Maryam رضي الله عنها
Muslim literature narrates that Hz. Imran عليه اسلام and his wife were old and childless and that, one day, the sight of a bird in a tree feeding her young aroused Bibi Hannah’s رضي الله عنها desire for a child.
She prayed to Allah to fulfill her desire and vowed, if her prayer was accepted, that her child would be dedicated to the service of Allah.
Her wish came true and Allah granted her with birth of Bibi Maryam رضي الله عنها
Story narrated by Ibn Kathir
Hz. Zakariyyah’s عليه اسلام wife’s sister had a daughter named Bibi Hannah رضي الله عنها.
She was married to Hz. Imran عليه اسلام, a leader of the Israelites.
For many years, the couple remained childless. Whenever Bibi Hannah رضي الله عنها saw another woman with a child, her longing for a baby increased.
Although years had passed, she never lost hope. She believed that one day Allah would bless her with a child, on whom she would shower all her motherly love. She turned to Lord of the heavens and the earth and pleaded with Him for a child.
She said that she would offer the child in the service of Allah’s house, in the temple of Jerusalem.
Allah granted her request. When she learned that she was pregnant, she was the happiest woman alive, and thanked Allah for His gift.
Her overjoyed husband Hz. Imran عليه اسلام also thanked Allah for His mercy. However, while she was pregnant her husband passed away.
Bibi Hannah رضي الله عنها wept bitterly. Alas, Hz. Imran عليه اسلام did not live to see their child for whom they had so longed. She gave birth to a girl, and again turned to Allah in prayer:
“O my Lord, I have delivered a female child,” and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and her offspring from Satan, the outcast.”
(Ch 3:36 Quran)
The actual Church of St Anne was built sometime between 1131 and 1138, during the reign of Queen Melisende.
It was erected near the remains of the Byzantine basilica, over the site of a grotto believed by the Crusaders to be the childhood home of the Bibi Maryam رضي الله عنها, mother of Hz. Isa عليه اسلام.
It is dedicated to Hz. Imran عليه اسلام and Bibi Hannah رضي الله عنها (Anne and Joachim), the parents of Saint Mary, who according to tradition (according to christians sacred texts) lived here.
Conversion in Madrasa by Hz. Salahuddin Ayyubi رحمة الله عليه
St. Anne’s was not destroyed after the 1187 conquest of Jerusalem by Hz. Salahuddin رحمة الله عليه.
In 1192 Hz. Salahuddin Ayyubi رحمة الله عليه, converted the building into a madrasa (Islamic educational institution), known as al-Madrasa as-Salahiyya (of Saladin), as is still written in the Arabic inscription above the entrance.
In the 15th century it was considered as the most prestigious college in the city, counting among its more prominent students the Islamic jurist and city historian, Mujir al-Din (1456–1522).
Ottoman rule and transfering the ownerships to France
During Muslim Ottoman rule in Palestine, Christian pilgrims were only permitted inside the grotto after paying a fee. Eventually the madrasa was abandoned and the former church building fell into disrepair.
In 1856, in gratitude for French support during the Crimean War, the Ottoman sultan Abdülmecid I presented it to Napoleon III. It was subsequently restored, but the majority of what remains today is original.
The French government claims ownership over St. Anne’s.
Next to the church is the large excavation area of the Pools of Bethesda, where, acc to christian traditions, Hz. Isa عليه اسلام healed a sick man.
Note: Some of the information in this article comes from Christians sources