This dream started many years ago when a small Nazarene boy called Elias was bathing and refreshing during hot summer days, as did many children, in the water of the Mary’s Well on the square. Staring at the shops located behind the Well, he wished that one day he would own one of these stores….. Years passed and after first moving to Jerusalem and later to Belgium, where we met and married, he wished to return to his homeland where we first settled to live in Jerusalem but destiny brought us back here to Nazareth where one of the places behind the Mary’s Well was put out for sale. Due to it’s terrible situation it stayed unsold for many years until finally in 1993 we bought the premises to move our perfume and jewelry store, existing at another location.
The dream has now become a story of twelve years.
Starting the renovation of the place we discovered and unearthed the remains of the only existing ancient bathhouse of Nazareth. Even not exactly knowing what it was at first, we were informed by the Israel Antiquity Authorities that it was nothing more than a Turkish Bathhouse from 1870, of no value whatsoever and so Elias continued the excavations for a period of three years on his own. We now know that this tactic is often used to make the involved people loose interest in the matter but it didn’t work with Elias!
Many suggested to simply destroy what he unearthed and most local people would have done just that; so eliminating any architectural evidence of the past and history of Nazareth but he decided at that time to keep the archaeological part of the place closed off saying: “I think it is quiet special and it will be something some day”. So the Angels were whispering and Elias was listening.
For several years we have not been busy with the archaeology of the place till one day I received the visit of a Lady from the city of Bath (U.K.), asking to see the bathhouse and pointing out that our site was a most wonderful Roman bathhouse and that she was ready to put her hands in fire for this fact. Unfortunately I do not recall her name.
Being quiet confused by her statement we started researches about bathhouses on our own and found out quiet quickly that what we had discovered was an almost perfectly preserved Roman Bathhouse.
During the next period, between the years 1997 to 1999, when the Mary’s Well Square had gotten completely closed off for renovation works started by the Ministry of Tourism in view of the year 2000 (with our place being the only one open behind this closure), Elias worked with the builders on the square and with the Antiquity Authorities which was conducting excavations in the area.
These extremely limited excavations revealed ancient water canals leading - the water from the Mary’s Well source to the public square (visible today)
- to the bathhouse (recovered)
- the entrance for the workers of the bathhouse
- a part of a Roman road (recovered)
- a Corinthian (Greco-Roman) Capitol which is in our place (a capitol
usually doesn’t exist alone…..
- Coins, pottery and glass from several time periods but dating as far back
as the Hellenistic period.
All the above confirming the importance of the discovery of the bathhouse from which we have a limited but very strategic part: the “heart of the bathhouse”.
In 1999, in order to be able to receive and show our discovery to the many expected pilgrims due to arrive to the Holy Land after the visit of His Holiness The Pope in 2000, we undertook with our last efforts the renovations of the archaeological part of the Bathhouse which had been closed off till than and replaced the perfume department in the store by local handicrafts. Project that started successfully but unfortunately only for 9 months …….. when the second antifada broke out.
Nine months only, though which gave birth to something completely new.
Between the visitors were many architects, experts, professors and archaeologists all agreeing the Bathhouse was certainly not from the Turkish period, confirming what the U.K. Lady from Bath told us some years ago.
A hermit Sister from the U.K. (Convent of St. Mary the Virgin), whom was on pilgrimage here, could feel the presence of the Spirit of Our Lord and Our Mother in the Bathhouse and has written an article, which we are free to forward. (attachment 1)
The Israel Antiquity Authorities (IAA), also came back in November 2002, stating the Bathhouse was one of the pre-Roman or first Roman period. (attachment 2)
BUT they only came back after having been contacted by the university of Hartford in the US interested in doing some ground penetrating radar scanning and geophysical surveys for which they wanted a license from the IAA. As this license has been obtained without any signed agreement from our side, it is unlawful and must be revocable.
The well known “Narrative of St. Arculf”, whom visited Nazareth in 670 AD, might indicate that the home of the Holy Family could have been in the neighborhood of the Mary’s Well after their return from Egypt.(attachment 3)
However, we do only wish to state this and do not officially refer to this document as it is used by the most honorable Sisters of Nazareth for their excavations.
An existing document, written in 1542 by the Rabbi Moshe Bassola of Ancona, is stating that Nazareth had a Bathhouse with warm water which Our Mother has used…… (attachment 4)
Considering the fact that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has himself lived in Nazareth for 23 years, He would also have used this facility as had His Mother.
Considering the huge size of our Bathhouse and it’s location beside the Mary’s Well, which was the only enough powerful spring 2000 years ago to have provided such a Bathhouse with the necessary water, it must have indisputably been this one.
So…….. the Bathhouse we discovered, excavated and preserved has turned out to be a most wonderful Roman Bathhouse and not just any Bathhouse but the one Our Mother and Our Lord Jesus have used and which’s size suggests that Nazareth was indeed a “Polis” or city as mentioned many times in the Holy Testament and anything but a poor small village as many tend to believe!
Because it is such a huge discovery and revelation, it is difficult to find support as most people are comfortable with the way things are and are not interested in finding out the truth!
The until now achieved is the result of our personal investment and efforts only. Joined is a page of published articles since the year 2000 and list of guide books which mention our site.
The story is now becoming a dream again, a mission, a project!
End of 2001 we have been informed that the property owners (7 brothers) of all the Bathhouse area, which’s superficies is about 1200 square meters, were interested in selling their property. They do not wish to get involved into any projects.
We have since than thought and dreamt about developing our discovery into a magnificent project that would include all the Bathhouse area and ultimately make the Bathhouse of Our Mother and Jesus operate again as it did in past glorious times; maybe partially with the water of the Mary’s Well, today a still existing but limited spring!
It might also be possible to have part of the property developed in a nice, small “boutique” hotel just right beside this unique “Spa” with possible handicraft shops around as this was the way the areas around Roman (and Greek) Bathhouses were structured.
On the city map (attachment 5) and sky view photograph (attachment 6):
- the Bathhouse property indicated in red
- the part belonging to us: the caldarium, the cave, the oven tunnel in green.
On the partial detailed map (attachment 7)
this map is showing the diverse sections of the bathhouse:
- the part belonging to us: the caldarium, the cave, the oven tunnel in green.
- additional the tipidarium and the frigidarium. The apoditerium (entrance
hall is not featured on the copy we have.
Realizing this project would certainly give the Mary’s Well Square and area a complete different appearance as it has today, redignified of it’s name and make it look and feel just as it was 2000 years ago when the Holy Family lived here and the many caravans traveling on the Via Maris used to herd in. www.urantiabooks.org
Besides the importance our discovery already has for the history of Nazareth, the project in a whole would be an unequaled tourist attraction that all Christians (and other people) from around the world would want to see and experience;
“to bathe in the Bathhouse of Our Mother and Jesus” and so indisputably have an enormous impact on the further development and economy of Nazareth providing a considerable increase in the local employment and as such also contribute to diminish immigration of the local population. Due to the political situation in the country and the Middle-East, the most concerned part of the immigrating population are presently Christians who’s presence in the Holy Land has been reduced to be merely around 1%, including the Convents and Monasteries.
Realizing this magnificent project would require:
- buying the Bathhouse property from the real estate owners
- buying back the 6 places/shops which are in “Key Right ownership” (an
old English law)
2 of them are on the Church Square
1 is on our left side, the corner
3 of them are on our right side (the tipidarium, part of the cut up entrance
hall, and the entrance hall itself)
- starting further professional excavations and connecting together all the
- braking down the housing that has recently (around 1960) been build on
top of the Bathhouse rooms. (the roofing of bathhouses were always build
rounded as to guarantee the circulation of the heat and steam).
- building and rebuilding whatever would be necessary to make the
Bathhouse work again and other necessary to achieve the final goal.
- start negotiations with the Orthodox Church council (St. Gabriel)with regards
to the water from the Mar’s Well. (we already started some talks several
- start negotiations with the Nazareth Municipality with regards to the
outside square (which has parts of the bathhouse)
- paying all kinds of required taxes…..
- paying the Authorities for licenses etc.
- paying all kinds of professional advise:
- an assessor: needed at first as to be able to
start the negotiations with
the property owners
- a very good lawyer! (urgently necessary)
- specialized accountants
- experts and professors with regard to
antiquities and see how the
bathhouse can be rebuild
There will surely be many other expenses to deal with, not mentioned in the
To increase foreign investment the Israeli government has been encouraging privatization of local historical sites in recent years, so there must be quiet some advantages connected to this fact.
In a recent conversation with the Mayor of Nazareth he said that the archaeological remains visible on the back side of the Mary’s Well were going to be closed off as to protect them from the vandalism existing in the area and suggested that we might open up the ancient entrance for the workers of the bathhouse (at the far end off our oven tunnel) and get the visitors enter to the underground remains from there.
This certainly ensures a very positive and complete cooperation from the Municipality of Nazareth for any project we would wish to undertake in the area.
Having been thinking about this project for some years now, the dream has expended beyond the Bathhouse property only as if the hotel, handicrafts etc. might not be possible on this property itself (what further excavations of the area should reveal), several other buildings surrounding the Bathhouse could gradually get added to complete the project.
On the city map (attachment 8) + picture (attachment 9)
- the building adjacent in the back of the property and actually belonging to
the same square. (indicated in purple)
- the building on the far right of the Bathhouse, which is also ancient and
once functioned as hotel and stables. (today supermarket and restaurant)
(indicated in blue)
- the rounded building on the left of the Bathhouse, facing the St. Gabriel
Church. (indicated in yellow)
The dream, if already spoken about, has extended much further than the Mary’s Well area alone. There are hundreds of wonderful ancient buildings (from different time periods) in the old city from Nazareth, from which Elias has taken thousands of pictures, which are abandoned and would need restoration as to be further turned into small hotels, restaurants, pubs, boutiques, art galleries and much more and have all the tourists wanting to spend several days in this city and walk around on the same streets that existed in the time of Jesus! But this is a different project altogether and should be worked out at a different time.
Being aware of the fact that even if we would work day and night we would never be able to achieve this on our own, we have been seeking appropriated assistance for the realization of this unique project, asking ourselves many times: “Where are the Christians of this world?”
It is not difficult to understand that a project of this magnitude is attracting all kinds of people, unfortunately our experiences in this matter have been quiet disappointing till the present time: some are now trying to circumvent us in any way possible, realizing though they will have to deal with us in any case at the end. We are sure that if it was not for us being there and having the main part, the “heart” of the Bathhouse, without which any project is impossible, the premises would have already been purchased especially considering the property owners are now very eager to sell!
To avoid any complications and more interest from other third parties, which would most probably result in price raises of the real estate, it is our opinion that the project, if it is to be, should happen as soon as possible.
We are aware that God has given us the wonderful gift as to discover this Bathhouse but feel that with it He also gave us a mission……. we now must do something further with this gift.
It is our wish to develop this project, at least all the Bathhouse area, and so reveal an important part of Nazareth’s history and ensure to leave this unique heritage to the world for all the future generations to come and guarantee the continuation of it’s existence.
We are simple people with limited resources but true the years we have been brought to believe in the Divine interference and protection.
Didn’t our Lord say: “If your believe was only as big as a mustard seed, you could make the mountain move”?!
If you would be interested in this magnificiant project, and learn more about a partnership, please contact us for further information.
May His will be,
Elias and Martina Shama – Sostar
- attach. 1: article from Sr. Barbara Anne – Convent of St. Mary the Virgin
- attach. 2: IAA Dror Barshad
- attach. 3: Narrative of St. Arculf
- attach. 4: Rabbi Moshe Bassola
- attach. 5: Nazareth city map with Bathhouse property in red
+ our present part in green
- attach. 6: Sky view photograph of the bathhouse property
- attach. 7: Map of the bathhouse rooms + hypocaust (partial)
- attach. 8: Nazareth city map with additional interesting buildings
- attach. 9: Sky view photograph of the bathhouse + surroundings