The New Testament does not mention anything about the birthplace of Mary. However, an ancient tradition locates the house of the parents of Mary, Anne, and Joachim, very close to the Temple area. A first church commemorating this tradition was built around 450 on the remains of the Pool of Bethesda, next to the present St. Anne's Church. That church was called "Mary where she was born."
The present church, built in 1142 continues the tradition. It was named after Saint Anne, Mary's mother. It was built as a Benedictine nunnery, and has a typical Benedictine plan: it is aisled with a groin-vaulted nave, pointed arches, shallow transepts, three eastern apses and a dome on pendentives.
After the re-conquest of Jerusalem by Salah el-Din in 1189, the church building became a school for Islamic Law; this foundation is mentioned in an Arabic inscription above the main entrance. Two or three centuries later, the building was abandoned. After the Crimean War between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, in 1856, the Sultan of Istanbul offered the former church building to the French government as a token of recognition for the assistance it offered during that war. The French government restored to close to its original form. A second restoration took place after the 1967 war.
Next to the church is the area of the
excavations of the Pool Bethesda. The Pool - also called Bezata - is
mentioned in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, as the place where Jesus
healed a sick, paralyzed man, who had been waiting in vain for
thirty eight years to be cured.