St. Anne’s Church – al-Salahiyya School

St. Anne’s Church, or al-Salahiyya School, is located to the west of Bab al-Asbat (Lions Gate), on the northern side of al-Mujahideen Street. The site was built in the Byzantine era as a church to commemorate the memory of Christ’s healing of a disabled man, but it was demolished during the Persian invasions. In the Franks era, another small church was built over the ruins of the Byzantine church, in addition to another larger church that was built in the location believed to be the birthplace of Virgin Mary.

The latter church is still standing and maintaining its Frank origin and architecture; it is one of the most spectacular churches in Palestine. After evicting the Franks from Jerusalem, this church was turned into a school of Islamic jurisprudence known as al-salahiyya School in 588 Hijri / 1192 AD; the school was named after its patron Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin). It was among the most famous and important schools of Jerusalem since its establishment and until 1856 AD, when Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majid decided to offer it as a gift to the French Emperor Napoleon the Third, as a symbol of appreciation of the French position in the Crimean war.

The Church follows the basilica style, and its ground is paved with marble. St. Anne's Church contains a natural cave, which is thought to be the birthplace of Virgin Mary, according to the Christian tradition. Excavations revealed a pool with two basins that dates back to the eighth century BC, a separation dam, Roman wells, remaining of the temple of the god of healing (in Greek beliefs), Serapis Asclepics, and the remains of a Byzantine church, a small Frank’s church niche, as well as a number of caves and grottos. According to John’s Bible, Chapter 5, the paralyzed man was healed in Bait Hasda pool, the pool with the two basins.