The Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem "Then Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea . . . "&(Luke 1:39)
The Church of the Visitation is apparently the more ancient of the two churches in Ein Karem. Tradition attributes its construction to Empress Helena, Constantine's mother, who identified the site as the home of Zechariah and the place where he and Elizabeth hid from Herod's soldiers.
The Crusaders later identified the site as the place where the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary took place and erected a two-story church on the ruins of the ancient church. &&When the Crusaders left the Holy Land, the church fell into Muslim hands and gradually deteriorated.
The Franciscans purchased the building in 1679, but only in 1862 was the lower level of the church restored. Work on the upper level of the structure began in 1938, and was completed in 1955. Within the current church, designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, the ancient remains are preserved. &&The lower church has frescoes depicting the Visitation, Elizabeth hiding her son John, and Zechariah next to the altar in the temple.
An ancient cistern from which Zechariah and Elizabeth drank is also to be found in the church; according to tradition, the stone next to it hid the two from Herod's soldiers. &&The upper hall is dedicated to Mary, and its walls are decorated with paintings in honor of her. Verses from the Magnificat are engraved on the columns of the church, and on the wall opposite it are forty-two ceramic tablets bearing verses from the Magnificat in forty-two different languages. On the church's facade is a striking mosaic commemorating the Visitation.